Finland grants transit permit for Patriot missiles

AP News
Posted: Jan 04, 2012 10:50 AM

The Finnish government on Wednesday authorized the transport of 69 impounded Patriot missiles en route to South Korea from Germany on a British-registered cargo boat.

The M/S Thor Liberty, which arrived in Finland last month from Germany to load a shipment of anchor chains and paper machine parts for China, was held in port after authorities discovered the surface-to-air missiles and 160 tons of explosive picric acid.

Police impounded the cargo and launched an investigation after port handlers reported that the explosives, also headed for China, were inadequately packed and that the missiles did not have the required transit documents.

Government officials on Wednesday said they had studied the case and decided to grant the Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration a re-export license. It has until the end of August to ship the missiles from Finland.

"There was no reason to delay anymore," Finnish Defense Minister Stefan Wallin said. "Everything is in order."

Earlier, the German Defense Ministry said the cargo of missiles was an official shipment that was fully declared and had all necessary clearings from German authorities.

Also, Finnish officials have said that the picric acid could be shipped once it is safely packed.

However, despite the government decision on Wednesday it was not clear when the boat would be able to sail pending the outcome of the police investigation. Police declined comment on the investigation.