United Nations launches probes into North Korea arms shipment
By Dialogo August 14, 2013
PANAMA CITY, Panama – A United Nations (UN) team launched a probe on Aug. 13 to determine whether a shipment of Cuban arms found hidden aboard a North Korean freighter violated UN sanctions, officials said.
The Chong Chon Gang was boarded and searched on July 10 as it passed through the Panama Canal on suspicion it was carrying narcotics.
Instead, inspectors uncovered an undeclared shipment of Cuban weapons, including two MiG-21 fighters. Cuban officials later said the weapons were being shipped to North Korea to be refurbished.
“The UN mission is in the country now and began work early,” Panamanian Security Minister José Raúl Mulino said.
The UN experts will report on their findings to the UN Security Council, which will decide whether the shipment violates a ban on arms transfers to North Korea.
The six-member team is led by Martin Uden, a former British ambassador to South Korea who is currently the coordinator of the UN experts group charged with monitoring enforcement of sanctions against North Korea.
The weapons systems were found in 25 containers buried under tons of sugar.
Besides the MiGs, the shipment included anti-aircraft and guidance systems, missiles, explosives and command-and-control vehicles.
Thirty-five North Korean sailors have been detained on arms trafficking charges that carry maximum sentences of up to 12 years in prison.
The ship is moored at the port of Colón, but Panamanian authorities have kept secret for security reasons where the arms shipment is being held.
[AFP (Panama), 13/08/2013; Telemetro (Panama), 09/08/2013]