Cuban fighter jets seized in Panama canal likely intended for NKorean
use, says think-tank
BY MATTHEW PENNINGTON, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS AUGUST 27, 2013
WASHINGTON - Fighter jet parts seized from a North Korean ship by
Panamanian authorities were likely intended for use by North Korea, an
apparent violation of U.N. sanctions, an arms control institute says.
The findings by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
contradict Cuba's claim that it was not violating the sanctions as it
was sending equipment to North Korea for repairs and expected it to be
returned, including MiG aircraft and motors, missiles and anti-aircraft
U.N. sanctions forbid North Korea from trading arms to deprive it of
technology and revenue for its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic
missiles. If the Cuban equipment was intended for North Korean use, it
would suggest Pyongyang is struggling to maintain its aging conventional
The ship, Chong Chon Gang, was intercepted July 15 in the Panama Canal,
with 25 containers of Cuban military equipment found beneath the 10,000
tons of sugar. The equipment was not listed on the ship's manifest.
Experts at the Stockholm institute say they have seen a report and
photographs compiled by Panamanian authorities and the United Nations
Organization on Drugs and Crime on what was found in the containers. The
institute's experts said there was other cargo not mentioned by Cuban
officials in public statements, including items of ammunition for
rocket-propelled grenades and conventional artillery, much of it in mint
condition and in the original packing cases.
"They clearly were not 'to be repaired and returned to Cuba,'" the
institute says in an analysis.
The analysis was published Tuesday by 38 North, the website for the
U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International
Studies. It was written by Hugh Griffiths, who heads the Stockholm
institute's program on countering illicit trafficking, and research
intern Roope Siiritola.
After the seizure, Cuba said the cargo included "obsolete defensive
weapons" including two MiG-21 jet aircraft and 15 motors, nine missiles
in parts, and two anti-aircraft systems that they were sending to North
Korea "to be repaired and returned." North Korea also said it had a
"legitimate contract" to overhaul "aging weapons" to be sent back to Cuba.
U.N. sanctions state that member states shall prevent the direct or
indirect supply, sale or transfer of all arms and materiel to North
Korea, and related spare parts, except for small arms and light weapons.
The Stockholm institute says the MiG fuselages were packed carelessly,
with no padding to protect the extremities from damage at sea,
suggesting there were intended to be culled for spare parts. The engines
were more securely attached and protected, suggesting they were intended
to be used as replacement engines.
The institute says North Korea has a track record of attempted illicit
or clandestine procurement of the MiG engines and aircraft, including
two other reported instances of it since 2009 and another in 1999. The
July seizure came less than two weeks after a North Korean military
delegation met Cuban leader Raul Castro in Havana on July 2.
In mid-August, a U.N. panel of experts monitoring sanctions against
North Korea travelled to Panama to investigate the arms seizure. Their
report has yet to be made public. If they find sanctions have been
violated they could recommend the Security Council add individuals or
entities involved in the transfer to a U.N. sanctions list. Member
states may then follow up by imposing travel and financial restrictions
on those added to the list.
Years of sanctions have restricted if not stopped North Korea's sale of
arms in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. It's also hurting its ability
to procure conventional military equipment, including for its prized air
The latest arms seizure, "tells us the North Koreans are pretty
desperate when it comes to air force procurement. They are scraping the
bottom of the barrel," Griffiths told The Associated Press.
Source: "Cuban fighter jets seized in Panama canal likely intended for
NKorean use, says think-tank" -