A team of U.N. experts reportedly has concluded that a shipment of obsolete Cuban arms interdicted in July en route to North Korea, allegedly for repairs, violated international sanctions, Agence France-Presse reported last week.
The North Korean Chong Chon Gang cargo ship was seized by Panamanian authorities as it attempted to pass through the Panama Canal. A search of the freighter’s hold uncovered 25 containers filled with Soviet-era systems including missiles, command-and-control technology, and two fighter jets.
The weaponry “undoubtedly violates U.N. sanctions, which supports the course of action Panama took,” the Panamanian public safety ministry said in a release, citing a draft report by the investigating U.N. team of sanctions experts. The investigators wrapped up their inspection of the cargo in August.
Cuba has said it was not exporting the arms to North Korea, merely sending them there for an overhaul after which they were to be returned to the Caribbean nation. Pyongyang’s payment for this work appears to have been a large shipment of accompanying sugar.
Separately, the Japanese Defense Ministry is interested in modifying its military alliance agreement with the United States to allow for Japan to carry out advance strikes on the military assets of enemy countries, Kyodo News reported on Tuesday.
Tokyo and Washington “need to thoroughly study a possible attack on (hostile bases) in the event of a missile launch clearly targeting Japan,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said, in discussing North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities.
Onodera and his U.S. counterpart, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, last week in a meeting in Brunei decided to hold further bilateral defense talks on the matter.
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As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."