by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Jan 29, 2016
Facing a US-led push for tough United Nations sanctions over its latest nuclear test, North Korea appeared to be looking for Security Council allies Friday, sending top diplomats to Moscow and possibly Beijing.
China and Russia, both veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, have helped temper the international reaction to North Korean provocations in the past.
Although the patience of both has been tested to its limits by North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions, neither wants to see the chaotic collapse of a nuclear-armed state on its border.
The North's official KCNA news agency said a delegation led by Vice Foreign Minister Pak Myong-Guk had departed for Russia on Friday.
No details were given of the itinerary, but the visit comes as Washington is seeking to build a regional and international consensus on the need for harsh sanctions after the North carried out its fourth nuclear test earlier this month.
Meanwhile, South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing unidentified sources, said a top North Korean foreign ministry official had been spotted arriving at Beijing's international airport.
The official, Choi Son-Hui, was a former deputy head of delegation to the long-stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
There was no information on Choi's itinerary and it was not immediately clear if she was planning to visit China or transit to a third country.
Singapore shipping firm fined for North Korea-linked arms
Chinpo Shipping Company Pte Ltd was found guilty by a Singapore district court of paying for a North Korean freighter to transit through the Panama Canal, in violation of UN sanctions.
A UN report quoted in 2014 said Chinpo Shipping had acted as an agent for a Pyongyang-based company that operated the intercepted vessel.
Chinpo Shipping "transferred financial assets or resources that may reasonably be used to contribute to the nuclear-related programmes or activities of" North Korea, a charge sheet said.
This was in breach of UN sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea's nuclear programme.
Chinpo Shipping was found guilty in December of wiring $72,000 to a shipping agent in Panama on July 8, 2013 to facilitate the passage of the North Korean freighter, Chong Chon Gang, through the Panama Canal.
The Singapore court also convicted Chinpo Shipping of a second charge of conducting a remittance business without a licence.
The ship, bound for North Korea from Cuba, was intercepted and searched while navigating the Panama Canal on July 10, 2013.
Authorities discovered 25 containers of military hardware, including two Soviet-era MiG-21 fighters, air defence systems, missiles and command and control vehicles, buried under 200,000 bags of sugar.
Cuba had argued that the weapons were "obsolete" which the communist island had sent to Pyongyang for repair. But the find raised concerns about Cuba's military cooperation with North Korea.
In June last year, a court in Panama jailed two of the ship's North Korean officers for 12 years in relation to the smuggling attempt.
Captain Ri Yong-Il and first mate Hong Yong-Hyon were convicted of arms trafficking over the undeclared cache.
The rest of the crew of more than 30 on the Chong Chon Gang were earlier acquitted.
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