South Korea hopes that a shipment of Patriot missiles it purchased from Germany, currently impounded in Finland, will be turned over as soon as possible. The South Korean Ambassador to Helsinki told YLE he believes that the interruption of the shipment was the result of poor communication among the European parties involved.
Long standing arms sales deals between Germany and South Korea got a new twist just before Christmas when the ship carrying the most recent shipment of missiles was held up by Finnish officials when it called at the port of Kotka.
The missile shipment itself was legal, but lacked the transit papers needed to be moved in and out of Finnish territory. The vessel, the Thor Liberty, is still in Kotka and the missiles it was carrying are being stored elsewhere.
South Korean Ambassador Dongsun Park told YLE on Wednesday that his country would like to take delivery of the missiles without further delay.
“The delay has caused some little inconvenience. Of course, we Koreans would like to have them as early as possible for the safety of the country and for peace of the country,” said Park.
Ambassador Park speculated that the reasons for the seizure of the missiles by Finnish authorities are to be found in garbled communications.
“It’s a European operation up to now. The point of origin is in Europe. It’s a European shipping company and the port the materials are in is in Finland. So I think you don’t speak the same language, even among Europeans.”
The vessel is also carrying a large consignment of explosives. Finnish authorities are investigating whether or not they are military materials. If they are, they as well require the proper transit documents.
According to available information, the explosives were being shipped to a different address in Asia than the missiles. Ambassador Park stressed that South Korea has nothing to do with the explosives aboard the Thor Liberty.
The news of the Patriot missiles being seized in Finland hit world headlines only a few days after the announcement of the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. However, Ambassador Park denied any connection.
“This is, after all, for peace and stability and even for prosperity in the sense that this is a trade between the EU and Korea. These are purely defensive materials, not any offensive materials. So, good for peace, good for stability, good for our prosperity.”
Finnish officials believe it may still be weeks before the Patriot missiles are on their way toward South Korea again. The country’s ambassador to Helsinki would like the matter squared away as quickly as possible.
“Koreans are impatient people and very efficient people, but I think Finnish people are more efficient than many Koreans, so we hope for an early delivery”.