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.