What was the massive military equipment hidden under hundreds of thousands of sacks of brown sugar on a North Korean boat? Where did it come from? And where was it going before investigators seized the vessel near the Panama Canal?
Hours after Panama said it would ask U.S. and British officials for help solving the puzzle, Cuba gave an answer Tuesday night.
In addition to 10,000 tons of sugar, Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said, the shipment contained “240 metric tons of obsolete defensive weapons” sent to North Korea “to be repaired and returned to Cuba.”
The equipment was manufactured in the mid-20th century and included two anti-aircraft missile systems, nine missiles in parts and spares, two MiG-21 jets and 15 motors for this type of airplane, the foreign ministry said.
Because it is supposedly pursuing nuclear weapons, North Korea is banned by the United Nations from importing and exporting most weapons.
Panamanian investigators are asking the United States and the United Kingdom to send teams to help them identify the weapons, and will invite a special commission from the United Nations to determine whether the shipment violates the organization’s North Korea weapons ban.
Investigators spotted the boat going through the Panama Canal to Havana and then back toward the canal, according to two senior U.S. officials who said the United States had been tracking the ship along with the Panamanians for some time.