Meanwhile, Over at the North Korean Airborne Weapons Bazaar
Yes, Virginia, despite United Nations sanctions forbidding any such activity, North Korea's government is still supplying weapons hither and yon. The latest sanctions busting shipment turned up aboard a cargo plane that stopped Friday for refueling in Bangkok -- you can peruse some of the details on Hot Air. Thai authorities found some 35 tons of North Korean armaments aboard the plane, including rocket-propelled grenades and surface-to-air missiles.
As usual with North Korea's in-your-face clandestine weapons shipments, the more we hear, the more curious it all becomes. The plane was an Ilyushin-76, previously owned by a Kazakh airline, reportedly sold to a small freight carrier operating out of Georgia (the former Soviet state, not the home of Jimmy Carter's peanut farm) -- and The Wall Street Journal reports no luck in getting this outfit to answer the number it has listed in the Moscow phone book. Four Kazakhs and a Belarusian were aboard the flight, which according to Thai authorities was bound for Sri Lanka. Except Sri Lankan authorities deny any knowledge that this North Korean weapons delivery was enroute to their turf.
But you want the really incredible part? Yes, it involves the U.S. State Department, still trying to corral North Korea's nuclear program by tossing carrots to Kim Jong Il.
While Thai authorities have been exhuming North Korean weapons from the cargo bay of this airplane, the U.S. State Department has been forging serenely ahead with plans for yet another round of nuclear talks with North Korea. Never mind that North Korea has an unbroken record of lying, cheating and subverting every deal it has made under both presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush. Never mind that North Korea's regime has no more regard for any deal it strikes at the diplomatic bargaining table than it does for UN sanctions.
On Monday, more than a full day after this sanctions-violating shipment had hit the world news, U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth -- fresh from a visit to Pyongyang -- was delivering to the press this sound bite, featured on the State Department web site:
"We came away from our talks in Pyongyang encouraged by the atmosphere, which was very reasonable and businesslike, exchanges of views with candor..." etc. Bosworth is "encouraged" that North Korean officials "reiterated their view of the importance of the six party talks..." You can read it in full here.
Memo to Ambassador Bosworth: Of course the North Koreans are interested in more talks. It's part of the nuclear shakedown racket that helps sustain the "reasonable and businesslike" regime of Kim Jong Il, while Kim builds nuclear weapons and sells arms to buyers such as Iran (which has been cultivating ties to Sri Lanka in recent years, though the end destination of the cargo seized in Bangkok is not yet clear... Iran? Pakistan? Afghanistan? Wherever these weapons were bound, the shipment was a violation of UN sanctions, and the likely buyer list is not -- how to put it? -- encouraging).