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2009年12月26日 (土)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 24(IHT/Asahi: December 26,2009)
EDITORIAL: North Korea's weapons.

Part of international weapons trafficking originating from North Korea has come to light.

In mid-December, a cargo plane taking off from Pyongyang landed in Bangkok for refueling. When Thai authorities checked the cargo declared as "oil-drilling equipment," they found a large quantity of North Korean-made weapons. They included 35 tons of anti-tank rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles worth more than 1 billion yen.

The ownership of the cargo plane has frequently changed and it now belongs to a Georgian company. It was also revealed that the plane had traveled to and from North Korea several times in the past. The crew were Belarusians and Kazakhs.

Although the destination of the plane was unclear, it planned to unload the cargo in Iran after stopping in Sri Lanka and Ukraine, according to flight plan information obtained by U.S. and European nongovernmental organizations that monitor weapon transfers.

The incident revealed the proliferation of weapons from North Korea and the presence of a weapons trafficking network involving arms traders of the former Soviet Union.

In response to the second nuclear test that Pyongyang conducted in May in defiance of international criticism, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to strengthen sanctions against North Korea. As a result, all weapons exports from North Korea were banned.

The incident this time clearly violates the resolution. Furthermore, it occurred around the time U.S. special envoy Stephen Bosworth visited Pyongyang to encourage North Korea to return to the six-party talks over its nuclear program. Pyongyang's behavior derides international society.

Seoul believes weapons exported by North Korea have spread over the Middle East, Asia and Africa. At one time, it is said that exports amounted to $500 million a year. While exports appear to have declined in recent years, there is no doubt they continue to provide a precious source of foreign exchange.

Actually, this summer, a North Korean cargo ship suspected of carrying supplies related to weapons of mass destruction was chased by a U.S. vessel off China. In the United Arab Emirates, a third-country vessel carrying North Korean weapons believed to be heading for Iran was apprehended.

Since the actual situation of weapons trafficking is difficult to see, the Thai government should work at bringing the matter to light.

The provision of information by the U.S. government is said to have proved effective in exposing the case. It shows the need and significance of multilateral cooperation.

It is important to further strengthen international cooperation and enhance the effectiveness of Security Council resolutions. Ground, maritime and air surveillance must be firmly established.

The U.N. resolution requires member states to inspect ship cargo in open waters when necessary. The Cabinet of Yukio Hatoyama submitted a bill for cargo inspection based on the resolution to the last extraordinary Diet session, but it remains under continuous deliberation. It should be passed into law in the ordinary Diet session to convene early next year.

There were cases in which Japanese and other companies were found to have sold machinery to North Korea that can be used for weapons development. Along with keeping an eye on weapon transfers, it is also important to keep weapons development under strict surveillance.


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