Mystery of military equipment discovered on North Korean boat

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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.


This entry was posted in , by Grant Montgomery.

2 thoughts on “Mystery of military equipment discovered on North Korean boat

  1. Grant Montgomery on said:

    September 2013 update – The Panama Canal Authority announced Thursday that it slapped a $1 million fine on the North Korean cargo ship, the Chong Chon Gang, caught with an undeclared shipment of Cuban weapons in July. The fine was delivered to the freighter’s captain and owners, he said, adding that the boat is barred from unmooring until they pay at least two-thirds of the penalty, or around $650,000.

    The ship’s 35 crew members are being detained at a former US military base in Panama on arms trafficking charges. They face up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

    The Panamanian government said last month that a United Nations report found that the shipment was a violation of UN sanctions against arms transfers to North Korea’.

    Both Havana and Pyongyang said they were “obsolete” Cuban arms being shipped to North Korea for refurbishment under a legitimate contract.

  2. Grant Montgomery on said:

    January 30, 2014 Update – Panamanian authorities released 32 of the 35 North Koreans detained since July after an undeclared cargo of Cuban arms was found on their ship, prosecutors said on Thursday. The remaining three North Koreans will go to trial on arms trafficking charges.

    Earlier this month, Panamanian officials said North Korea had agreed to pay a $666,000 fine for release of the crew and ship. It was unclear whether North Korea had made that payment.

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