Unloading of North Korean Ship Carrying Cuban Weapons Concludes in Panama

By Dialogo
August 13, 2013

The unloading of the North Korean vessel captured in Panama and carrying undeclared Cuban weapons hidden in sugar cargo came to a n end on August 11, a day before the arrival of UN inspectors, Prosecutor Javier Caraballo, in charge of the case, reported. “In total, we have found 25 containers (with military equipment) and six military vehicles” in five compartments of the ship, the prosecutor added.

On July 10, Panamanian authorities detained the North Korean vessel Chong Chon Gang under suspicion of drug trafficking, when it attempted to cross the Panama Canal from the Atlantic.

After the first inspections were conducted, Police found containers carrying undeclared Cuban military equipment that was hidden under sugar cargo. However, “inspections are not finished yet, since there are some areas left to examine,” Caraballo stated.

After discovering the weapons aboard the ship, and in view of the United Nations sanctions against the Pyongyang government, Panama requested the UN to conduct an inspection. This delegation of experts will issue a report to help the Security Council decide if UN resolutions 1718 of 2006, 1874 of 2009, and 2094 of 2013, related to avoiding the “acquisition, transport, and transfer of war materials” to Pyongyang, were violated.

The sugar bags were unusually stowed individually, hinting that it was probably aimed at burdening unloading activities, according to experts.

Panamanian prosecution reported that 203,191 sacks of sugar were found in the ship. Furthermore, “several SA2 and SA3 missiles were found in pieces” in the last inspection performed on August 11, “which will be analyzed in detail by experts and specialists,” prosecutor added.

The prosecutor said that war aircraft, anti-aircraft missile systems and guide equipment, rockets, explosives, and command and control trucks were found among the war materials aboard the vessel on August 7.

Cuba admitted to owning the weapons, considering it “defensive and obsolete,” while North Korean authorities stated that it is “a legitimate contract” to refurbish Cuban weapons.