Panama May Hit North Korea with $1 Million Fine for Illicit Arms Transport

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Global Security Newswire Staff
Aug. 16, 2013, 8:02 a.m.

The North Korean cargo ship that at­temp­ted to il­leg­ally move Cuban weapons through the Panama Canal last month could be fined up to $1 mil­lion by the Panama Canal au­thor­ity, Agence France-Presse re­por­ted on Thursday.

The Chong Chon Gang freight­er was in­ter­dicted on Ju­ly 10. An in­spec­tion of the ship’s hold has found amid sacks of sug­ar 25 con­tain­ers filled with weaponry in­clud­ing mis­sile- fir­ing com­pon­ents, old So­viet jets and air-de­fense equip­ment. Cuba has claimed own­er­ship of the aging arms and said they were be­ing trans­por­ted to North Korea for over­haul­ing and then re­pat­ri­ation to the Carib­bean is­land na­tion.

Oner­ous U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil sanc­tions for­bid all na­tions from en­ga­ging in any weapons com­merce with Py­ongy­ang, which is be­ing pun­ished for its con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment of nuc­le­ar weapons and bal­list­ic mis­siles.

The smug­gling in­cid­ent “is a flag­rant vi­ol­a­tion of safe pas­sage through the Panama Canal and we have little tol­er­ance for this kind of activ­ity,” canal man­ager Jorge Quijano said. 

“It is go­ing to be sanc­tioned,” said Quijano, adding that of­fi­cials are weigh­ing how much the pen­alty should be. “Very ser­i­ous” breaches of Panama Canal policies can be pen­al­ized with a max­im­um fine of $1 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the ad­min­is­trat­or.

“The case of the North Korean freight­er is very ser­i­ous,” he said in an in­ter­view with AFP.