Monday, December 14, 2009

U.S.-North Korea dialogue impacted by North Korean weapons haul

A cargo plane full of North Korean weapons, detained in Thailand after an emergency landing at Bangkok airport, was bound for Ukraine, the Thai news agency TNA reported on Sunday.

Thai authorities, reportedly acting on a tip from their American counterparts, impounded an Ilyushin 76 transport plane, carrying explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and components for surface-to-air missiles, during a refueling stop at Bangkok's Don Muang airport Saturday.

Four men from Kazakhstan and one from Belarus were detained, and are due to appear in court Monday. Thai authorities took the action because of a United Nations resolution banning the transport of certain weapons from or to North Korea, Thailand's Foreign Ministry said.

According to TNA, the plane's crew commander, a Belarusian national, said during a six-hour interrogation that the plane had flown from Ukraine and loaded weapons in North Korea. On its way back, the plane was intended to refuel in Thailand and Sri Lanka, following which the cargo was expected to be delivered to Ukraine, TNA reported.

"There is a possibility that the incident could have a negative effect on moves to get the North to rejoin the six-party talks and a U.S.-North Korea dialogue mood," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies.

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