UNITED NATIONS – The United Arab Emirates has seized a cargo ship bound for Iran with a cache of banned rocket-propelled grenades and other arms from North Korea, the first such seizure since sanctions against North Korea were ramped up, diplomats and officials told The Associated Press on Friday.
The seizure earlier this month was carried out in accordance with tough new U.N. Security Council sanctions meant to derail North Korea's nuclear weapons program, but which also ban the North's sale of any conventional arms.
Diplomats identified the vessel as a Bahamas-flagged cargo vessel, the ANL Australia. The diplomats and officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
"We can confirm that the UAE detained a North Korean vessel containing illicit cargo," a Western diplomat told the AP.
Turkey's deputy U.N. ambassador, Fazli Corman, who chairs the Security Council's sanctions panel, also confirmed the incident without providing details and said council members are examining the seriousness of it.
The UAE, a hub for Iranian goods, seized the ship earlier in August. The ship is registered in the Bahamas, a common country of registry for vessels, but it wasn't immediately clear who owns it nor where the owner is based.
The Security Council's latest resolution came in the wake of North Korea's second nuclear test in May and firing of six short-range rockets.
The ship's seizure and reported violation of a U.N. arms embargo was reported by the UAE in a confidential letter two weeks ago to the council's sanctions committee for North Korea, which is comprised of diplomats from all 15 nations on the Security Council, according to diplomats and officials.
The Financial Times first reported the weapons' seizure Friday.
The Security Council imposed tough new sanctions on North Korea on June 12, strengthening an arms embargo and authorizing ship searches on the high seas to try to rein in its nuclear program after Pyongyang's second nuclear test on May 25, violating a council resolution adopted after its first nuclear blast in 2006.
The council also has ordered an asset freeze and travel ban on companies and individuals involved in the country's nuclear and weapons programs — and put five North Korean officials, four companies and a state agency on the sanctions list. Three other companies were put on the list after Pyongyang launched a rocket on April 5, a move that many saw as a cover for testing long-range missile technology.
The new sanctions resolution also calls on all nations to prevent financial institutions or individuals from providing financing for any activities related to North Korean programs to build nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles.
Three sets of U.N. sanctions apply to Iran, seeking to halt its uranium enrichment. Iran denies accusations by the U.S. and Western allies that its nuclear program is for more than peaceful purposes.
The ship seizure comes at a delicate time, just as the North has been adopting a more conciliatory stance toward South Korea and the U.S., following months of defiant provocations.
Earlier this month, the North freed two American journalists and a South Korean worker after more than four months of detention and pledged to restart some joint projects.
The North also sent a delegation to Seoul to mourn the death of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.