N. Koreans end visit to Panama over seized ship

Updated 31 August 2013

N. Koreans end visit to Panama over seized ship

PANAMA CITY: North Korean diplomats concluded a two-day visit to Panama Thursday to discuss the status of the crew of a North Korean freighter caught with a shipment of undeclared Cuban arms.
“The meeting was positive and we are moving forward,” Panamanian Security Minister Jose Raul Molino said.
Molino said, however, that any resolution of the North Korean crew’s case must be in keeping with “the norms of the Panamanian legal process.”
During the visit, the North Korean delegation met with the 35 members of the crew of Chong Chon Gang, which was seized July 10 as it was passing through the Canal from the Atlantic side.
Authorities discovered a shipment of Cuban arms, including two MiG-21 fighter jets, air defense systems and command and control vehicles.
On Wednesday, the Security Ministry said a panel of UN experts had reported preliminarily that the shipment violated UN sanctions against North Korea.
The ship’s crew face a maximum of 12 years in prison if convicted in Panama of arms smuggling.
The Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, meanwhile appears to have replaced his hawkish, ageing army chief in what analysts suggested Friday was a further bid to tighten control over the military.
Kim Kyok-Sik, 75, is believed to have been replaced as chief of the army’s general staff by Ri Yong-Gil who, until now, has headed the army’s general staff operations department.
The North on Sunday held a meeting of the powerful central military commission where personnel changes were made, state media reported.
Then on Wednesday, in a report on top-ranking officials attending a football match in Pyongyang, the official Rodong Sinmun daily named Ri ahead of Jang Jong-Nam, the defence minister, while Kim was not mentioned at all.
Ri, believed to be in his 60s, was also pictured with the insignia of a four-star general, compared to his previous three stars.
“The state media does sometimes mess around with the order of senior officials’ names... but there is a possibility General Ri has replaced General Kim,” the specialist website NK Leadership Watch noted.
Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute think-tank in Seoul said the listing change coupled with the promotion to four-star general meant Ri “must have taken over” as army chief.
An official with South Korea’s Unification Ministry said the government had a policy of not commenting on reported personnel changes in the North.


Philippines reports 8 additional coronavirus deaths, 152 new cases

Updated 37 sec ago

Philippines reports 8 additional coronavirus deaths, 152 new cases

MANILA: The Philippine health ministry reported on Sunday 8 additional coronavirus deaths and 152 newly confirmed cases.
The positive cases in the Philippines totalled 3,246, as of 0800 GMT, while the death toll has risen to 152, it said in the daily bulletin.