Posted on Wednesday, 08.28.13
Report: Cuban weapons in North Korean ship violated U.N. sanctions
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
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
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
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.
Source: "Report: Cuban weapons in North Korean ship violated U.N.
sanctions - Cuba - MiamiHerald.com" -