CUBA

Report: Cuban weapons in North Korean ship violated U.N. sanctions

 

jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Cuban weapons found in a freighter bound for North Korea “without a doubt” violate U.N. sanctions and some of it seemed intended for Pyongyang’s own use, not for repair and return as Havana claims, according to a report Tuesday.

The weapons shipment hidden in deliberately modified sections of the ship also was much larger than previously reported, and included anti-tank cannon and night vision equipment, said the report in 38 North, a U.S.-based Web page on North Korean issues.

Taken together, the evidence makes clear “that contrary to both the North Korean shipping declaration and Cuban government statements the shipment was without a doubt a violation of United Nations sanctions on North Korea,” it said.

The North Korea-flagged Chong Chon Gang declared a cargo of 10,000 tons of sugar and 2,000 empty polyethylene bags after it left Cuba and approached the Panama Canal in July on its way home. Panama authorities searched it after a tip that it carried drugs and found the weapons in 25 metal shipping containers hidden under the sugar.

Havana claimed the 240 tons of “obsolete” equipment, including two MiG-21 jets, 15 engines for the MiGs, nine missiles and parts and two anti-aircraft missile radar systems, was sent to Pyongyang for repairs only.

“The statement was misleading to say the least,” said the report, co-authored by Hugh Griffiths, a global arms trafficking expert with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden, and research intern Roope Siiritola. 38 North is run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Maryland.

The most obvious discrepancy, the report said, was that North Korea has a long record of trying to buy MiG-21s and engines for its own military in violation of the U.N. arms embargo sparked by its missile and nuclear weapons development programs.

What’s more, the fuselages of the MiG-21s “were rather carelessly packed” in 40-foot metal shipping containers, it added, with no protective padding covering sensitive parts that could have been damaged should the ship have encountered rough seas.

“The method of packing does not suggest that the aircraft themselves were to be ‘repaired’ and ‘returned’ to Cuba, but rather (were intended) for end use in North Korea” as scrap or spare parts, the report said.

In contrast, it added, the engines “were securely attached and adequately spaced … covered in layers of protective plastic sheeting and brown packing paper” and cradled in improvised transport frames, “suggesting their end use as replacement engines.”

North Korea attaches great importance to its fleet of MiG-21 jets, the report added, which may be “obsolete by western standards” but are capable of flying as fast as the KF-16, the South Korean variant of the U.S.-made F-16.

The shipment also included a variety of small arms, ammunition and conventional artillery ammunition for anti-tank guns and howitzer artillery as well as generators, batteries and night vision equipment, among other items, according to the report.

Many of the rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and artillery ammunition were “in mint condition … and much of it was in original packing cases,” it said. “They clearly were not ‘to be repaired and returned to Cuba.’ Rather, these items were intended simply for delivery to North Korea for its own use.

The report also noted that the shipping containers — each has a unique ID number — had not been used for declared cargo for many years and suggested they were taken out of storage “for the express purpose of transporting the sanctioned military goods to North Korea.”

The holds of the freighter, designed for bulk cargo such as sugar and grains, also were “deliberately modified” so that the containers could be hidden under the sugar cargo “to facilitate a clandestine transfer,” according to the report.

The report, which includes several previously unpublished photos of the weaponry, mentioned information gathered by Panamanian authorities and the U.N. Organization on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Container Control Programme (CCP).

It added that a report filed last week to the U.N. Security Council by the U.N. Panel of Experts on North Korea, which inspected the weaponry in Panama earlier this month, makes for “interesting reading” but did not mention any specific details.

The Chong Chon Gang and its 35-man crew remain detained in Panama, where the government has said that it will decide what to do with the freighter and the sugar only after the U.N. Security Council makes a ruling on the case.

Read more Cuba stories from the Miami Herald

  • CUBA

    Exile activist arrested in alleged fraud

    Antonio “Tony” Calatayud, a well known Cuban exile activist and radio commentator, has been arrested on a complaint that he defrauded five South Florida people out of more than $1 million with promises of cheap purchases of distressed real estate properties.

  •  
FILE- In this July 11, 2014, file photo, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, behind, and Cuba's President Raul Castro attend a ceremony at the Mausoleum of the Soviet Internationalist Soldier in Havana. In his first visit in more than a decade to Cuba, Putin touted a recent decision to wipe clean 90 percent of the communist-run island’s $35 billion debt to Moscow and announced deals to invest in Cuba’s offshore oil industry.

    CUBA

    Russia-Cuba love affair on again

    Trade, politics, culture and history are leading to warmer relations between the Cold War allies.

  • CUBA

    Report: Russia will reopen spy base in Cuba

    If true, reports that Russia will reopen a spy base in Cuba will complicate, if not halt, any Obama administration effort to warm up relations with Havana.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category