Cuba Ignoring Panama, U.N. Requests for Info on N. Korea Arms Shipment

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 18, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

Cuba is not re­spond­ing to re­quests from Panama and the U. N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil for more de­tails about an arms ship­ment that was in­ter­dicted on its way to North Korea, which Havana ori­gin­ally claimed was to have been re­turned after the weapons were re­paired, Re­u­ters re­por­ted on Fri­day.

Panamani­an For­eign Min­is­ter Fernando Nun­ez Fab­rega said there has been no com­mu­nic­a­tion between Havana and Panama City since an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to the weapons, dis­covered in Ju­ly on the Chong Chon Gang North Korean freight­er, re­vealed they were “ob­vi­ously not ob­sol­ete” — as the Cuban gov­ern­ment ori­gin­ally claimed.

Cuba called off a planned Septem­ber meet­ing with Panama at the United Na­tions and has ig­nored all oth­er Panamani­an re­quests for con­tact.

“It was like talk­ing to a brick wall,” Nun­ez Fab­rega said in an in­ter­view.

The Se­cur­ity Coun­cil sub­com­mit­tee with over­sight on North Korean sanc­tions also has been un­suc­cess­ful in its re­quests for in­form­a­tion from Cuba about the in­ter­dicted ship­ment of 25 con­tain­ers of un­declared weapons, ac­cord­ing to Re­u­ters. U.N. sanc­tions ex­perts already have in­spec­ted the arms and are pre­par­ing an of­fi­cial re­port on the mat­ter.

Se­cur­ity Coun­cil sanc­tions for­bid all U.N. mem­ber states from en­ga­ging in any weapons deal­ings with Py­ongy­ang.

An ana­lys­is by in­de­pend­ent ex­perts has con­cluded the arms ship­ment was much great­er in size than Havana ori­gin­ally ad­mit­ted and that a num­ber of the arma­ments were in “mint con­di­tion.” The re­port states the weapons — in­clud­ing two So­viet-era MiG fight­er jets, anti-air­craft mis­siles and anti-tank guns — were meant for North Korea’s mil­it­ary.

“Of the 15 [dis­covered] jet en­gines, 10 were in im­macu­late con­di­tion,” Nun­ez Fab­rega said.

Panama has de­cided to soon al­low al­most all of the 35-mem­ber North Korean ship crew to go free, as they ap­pear to have been un­aware they were trans­port­ing weapons, the min­is­ter said. The freight­er’s cap­tain and his first mate could face pro­sec­u­tion.

The Chong Chon Gang also will likely be re­leased to its own­er, he said.

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