Tuesday, March 11, 2014

To Sweeten the Deal?

What do Dennis Rodman and 10,000 tons of sugar have in common? You can insert your own punch line, but a new report from the panel of experts appointed by the United Nations Security Council to monitor the sanctions regime imposed on North Korea suggests that both may have been involved in the shipment of prohibited goods.

Last summer, Panama intercepted a North Korean ship traveling from Cuba to North Korea with 10,000 tons of sugar in its hold. Beneath the sugar were containers holding two disassembled MiG-21 jet fighters and fifteen MiG-21 engines, all being shipped to the DPRK for repair. (North Korea is one of the few places in the world where Soviet-made weapons from the 1950s can be sent for repair.) The report, according to the New York Times, shows that "North Korea is using increasingly deceptive techniques to circumvent international sanctions."

Reuters reported recently that the panel of experts was investigating whether Rodman, whose travels to North Korea were lampooned last fall in this brilliant ad for Foot Locker, may have violated the ban on shipments of luxury goods (including spirits) into the DPRK.

Meanwhile, amid dancing in the streets, North Koreans have just voted unanimously to approve Kim Jong-un and his entire slate of parliamentary candidates.