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U.S. Fails to Prevent North Korean Arms Shipment

New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/world/africa/08ethiopia.html?ref=world

Washingotn Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/07/AR2007040701365.html

Summary: Administration officials acknowledged that they allowed a North Korean arms shipment to go through to Ethiopia, three months after pressuring the United Nations to enact strict sanctions on North Korea as a result of its nuclear test.

I thought the Washington Post lead was somewhat unclear and confusing: "The United States did not act to prevent a recent shipment of arms from North Korea to Ethiopia, even though sketchy intelligence indicated the delivery might violate a U.N. Security Council resolution restricting North Korean arms sales, Bush administration officials said yesterday." The words "sketchy intelligence" and "might violate" were vague enough to make me wonder if the news value and importance of the event were sufficient.

On the other hand, the New York Times lead: "Three months after the United States successfully pressed the United Nations to impose strict sanctions on North Korea because of the country’s nuclear test, Bush administration officials allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from the North, in what appears to be a violation of the restrictions, according to senior American officials." proved to be much less timid and much clearer. The inclusion of seemingly contrasting actions taken by the government helps the lead greatly.

The primary challenge of this article was explaining the reasoning behind administration officials decision to let the shipment through to Ethiopia. While the Post spent time analyzing the breakdown in communication between varying bureaucratic levels, the New York Times focused on detailing Ethiopia's previous reliance on North Korean arms, and how that reliance affected the outcome. The Times also encompassed the view of a key Ethiopian offical, who stated that, 'we know we need to transition to different customers, but we just can’t do that overnight.'

Overall, the depth of coverage and information present in the New York Times article made the article superior to its Washington Post counterpart.