NKorean arms headed to Iran seized in UAE

NEW YORK: The United Arab Emirates has seized a ship carrying North Korean weapons to Iran, marking the first time a nation has acted on UN sanctions to stop the communist state’s proliferation, a diplomat said on Friday.

The incident emerged despite a recent easing of tensions with the hardline communist nation, which has been seeking a resumption of talks with the United States three months after stunning the world with a nuclear test.

A diplomat, speaking to AFP in New York on condition of anonymity, said UAE government officials had informed the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee, which is responsible for implementing sanctions on Pyongyang.

“It is an issue that is being processed by the committee,” said the source, who declined further comment on details on the weapons.

The seizure would indicate that North Korea is set on exporting its military technology, long a top money-maker for one of the world’s poorest and most isolated nations. The UAE mission to the United Nations declined comment on the case.

The Financial Times reported that the ship was seized “some weeks ago,” and identified some of the armaments as basic weaponry, including rocket-propelled grenades. The arms had been falsely labelled as “machine parts,” the Financial Times reported. CNN said the ship was flying the flag of The Bahamas.

North Korea in the past acknowledged selling military technology overseas, declaring it to be a sovereign right. But the extent of its sales remain murky. US experts estimate that North Korea earned hundreds of millions of dollars by exporting its military technology until its activities came under closer attention in recent years.

A US navy destroyer in June tracked a North Korean cargo ship suspected of heading to Myanmar, but the vessel later turned back.

India earlier this month intercepted another North Korean ship in the Bay of Bengal between India and Myanmar and is investigating its contents. Iran and North Korea — two of the top pariahs in Western eyes — are suspected of cooperating to some extent on military technology.

The United Arab Emirates has a long-running island dispute with Iran and like other Gulf Arab states has been fearful that its giant neighbour is developing nuclear weapons.

In 2007, Israeli warplanes destroyed what a US official said was a nuclear reactor being built in Syria by North Korea.