중앙데일리

Media say North arms on way to Ukraine

Dec 15,2009
Unidentified crew members of a cargo plane which flew into Thailand carrying 30 tons of sanctions-busting weapons from North Korea talk with a Thai policeman (bottom left) before leaving the Criminal Court following a hearing, in Bangkok yesterday. [AFP]
The aircraft carrying weapons from North Korea was on its way to Ukraine, a member of the crew has told Thai media.

The Thai News Agency reported that the crew commander, a Belarussian named Mikhail Petukhou, said during a six-hour interrogation that the plane was bound for the former Soviet territory.

According to TNA, the commander said the plane, which is registered in Georgia, had initially flown from Ukraine and loaded the weapons into the aircraft in North Korea.

It then refueled in Azerbaijan and in the United Arab Emirates. It was scheduled to stop in Thailand and Sri Lanka for more refueling, but was detained in Thailand Friday.

The Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that the Ukraine Foreign Ministry was investigating. On Saturday, Thai authorities said the aircraft’s arsenal included missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Thai government officials declined to confirm the report. Some other reports said the plane was destined for Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi didn’t elaborate on whether the plane had been ordered to make the emergency landing or if it had been intercepted during a refueling stop.

“What I can say is that the actions that were taken were done pursuant to the UN Security Council resolution,” Thani said. He was referring to Security Council Resolution 1874 that asks UN member states to inspect all cargo to and from North Korea to see if it contains banned materials.

The crew members, one Belarussian and four Kazakhs, were ordered yesterday to be held in a Thai prison for further investigation, the Associated Press reported.

Bangkok’s Criminal Court approved the order after authorities requested a detention extension of 12 days, said police spokesman Pongsapat Pongjaren.

North Korea has been selling weapons and related technologies to obtain foreign currency. It often uses ships to haul the weapons.

The case in Thailand is the first known this year involving air cargo.

Last year, Indian authorities turned back a North Korean plane as it tried to fly through Indian airspace on its way to Tehran, Iran.

A North Korean aircraft from Air Koryo sought permission to overfly Indian skies.

India initially gave the go-ahead sign but withdrew the green light three days later.

At the time, the North didn’t declare whether it was a passenger or freight flight.

In November 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported that India’s action was in response to a U.S. request based on fears about proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]



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