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Originally published Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 3:14 PM

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South Africa reports NKorea sanctions violation

South Africa sent a report to the United Nations saying it confiscated a shipment of North Korean tank parts hidden among sacks of rice which were headed for the Republic of Congo in violation of U.N. sanctions.

Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS —

South Africa sent a report to the United Nations saying it confiscated a shipment of North Korean tank parts hidden among sacks of rice which were headed for the Republic of Congo in violation of U.N. sanctions.

In the report, obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, the South African government said the two containers are currently stored in a state-secured warehouse in Durban while its investigation continues. It estimated the value of the conventional arms at 6 million rand (about $770,000)

The shipment's final destination, according to the bill of lading, was the port of Pointe Noire in the Republic of Congo, the small oil-rich country often overshadowed by its larger neighbor, Congo. The Republic of Congo, whose capital is Brazzaville, has reportedly experienced a wave of recent violence.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in testimony Wednesday to a Senate committee that the South African seizure was another example of the effectiveness of U.N. sanctions, adding that hardly a week goes by without a report of a new seizure.

In one of the major seizures, Thai authorities, acting on a tip from the U.S., found 35 tons of weapons on an Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane that stopped in Bangkok en route from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang on Dec. 12. Thailand and some independent arms trafficking experts say flight documents indicated the plane's cargo - listed as oil drilling equipment - was headed for the Iranian capital, Tehran.

The U.N. Security Council imposed tough new sanctions on North Korea last June, banning the export of all weapons and authorizing ship searches on the high seas to try to rein in its nuclear program. The resolution was adopted after Pyongyang's second nuclear test on May 25, 2009, which violated a council resolution adopted after its first nuclear blast in 2006.

The report to the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea is entitled "breach of the Security Council resolutions..."

It traced the shipment from the DGE Corporation via the "Machinery Expand Imp Corp (cq)," both established to be in North Korea, to the Chinese port of Dalian where it was put on board the CGM Musca on Oct. 20.

The bill of lading described the contents of the two containers as "spare parts of bulldozer," according to the report.

At Port Klang, Malaysia, the shipment was transferred to another vessel, the Westerhever, which was chartered by Delmas Shipping, a subsidiary of the French shipping company, CMA-CGM, the report said. Delmas requested that CMA-CGM Shipping Agencies South Africa (Pty) Ltd. represent the Westerhever on its voyage to South Africa.

The captain was instructed to refuel in Durban on Nov. 28-29, but due to fuel shortages in Durban, the Westerhever was ordered to take on fuel in Walvis Bay, the report said.

While en route to Walvis Bay on Nov. 27, the captain "received an email instruction from Delmas to make a U-turn and discharge the two containers in Durban, the report said.

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A U.N. diplomat familiar with the report, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the email informed the captain that the ship was carrying suspicious cargo which should be turned over for inspection to South African authorities in Durban.

Martin Baxendale, a spokesman for CMA-CGM, said in Paris that the company was in contact with South African authorities but said "we cannot enter into discussions relating to any details in regard to this matter."

According to the report, "a large quantity of rice grains in sacks lined the containers and was utilized as protective buffers for the conveyance of the conventional arms."

The containers included a large number of components for T54 and T55 tanks, including gun sights, seats, tracks, tank periscopes, and communications equipment, the report said. A high frequency radio with Chinese markings, protective headgear for tank crewmen, and search lights including infrared lights were also included, it said.

T54 and T55 tanks were initially produced in the former Soviet Union but have since been upgraded and manufactured in other countries.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, asked about the letter Thursday at a regular media briefing in Beijing, said "China is looking into it."

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Associated Press Writers Matthew Lee in Washington, Jamey Keaten in Paris and Charles Hutzler in Beijing contributed to this report.

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