Cuba Next Stop for North Korean Ship Released in Panama

HAVANA TIMES — The North Korean cargo ship “Chong Chon Gang”, released after paying a fine of $693,333 to the Panama Canal Authority, sailed today at 13:30 GMT from Colon City, in the Panamanian Caribbean, bound for Cuba.

The departure was confirmed on Saturday via a statement from the Panamanian Foreign Affairs Ministry. The vessel had been detained last July with a load of hidden undeclared Cuban weapons, reported dpa news.

The Foreign Ministry said that representatives from the Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in Havana with staff of the Panamanian Immigration Service and the Foreign Ministry, arrived Tuesday at the base of the National Air Service in Colon, where the ship’s crew was located, to verify that everything was in order.

“In the case of the Chong Chon Gang, Panama acted correctly and the United Nations endorsed the effort made by our country in accordance with international rules and multilateral obligations,” said Panamanian Foreign Minister Francisco Alvarez De Soto on Saturday.

“From a humanitarian point of view, the crew received all the appropriate assistance,” said the Foreign Minister.

“The ship travels to Cuba for repairs and to pick up a cargo of sugar to be transported to North Korea,” said Julio Berrios, a Panamanian lawyer who legally represents the North Korean crew.

Berrios called “arbitrary” the detention of the 35 member crew since July 10, 2013, when the ship, coming from Cuba, was stopped by police on suspicion of drug trafficking before it could cross the Panama Canal.

“In the incident with the vessel even the ship’s doctor was arrested without cause,” said Berrios.

The Panamanian public prosecutor opened a criminal case against the ship’s captain and two other officers arrested for allegedly trafficking undeclared weapons of war and “illegal possession of weapons.”

Aboard the “Chong Chon Gang” were found 10,000 tons of sugar and 25 containers in which there were 240 tons of weapons, including two Volga anti-aircraft rockets and nine Pechora rockets in parts and pieces, two Mig-21 Bis aircraft and 15 aircraft engines.

Cuba’s government argued that the freight was “obsolete defensive weaponry” but a mission of UN experts traveled to Panama to examine the cargo and a prelimnary report determined that it violated the international embargo on North Korea importing or exporting weapons.

Attorney Berrios said a claim filed for the return of the confiscated sugar load, which has a value in the international market for five million dollars, still needs to be addressed.

Panamanian authorities announced that the shipments of sugar will be auctioned, but Berrios said the issue could become a matter of international dispute between Pyongyang and Panama, because the sugar belongs to the North Koreans.

5 thoughts on “Cuba Next Stop for North Korean Ship Released in Panama

  • Ok Terence. So what do you have to say about the UN report just released and the eyewitness accounts? What… doesn’t fit into your world view? Are the witnesses accounts propaganda too?

  • The UN has just released a report on North Korea detailing crimes against humanity, massive human rights abuses, war crimes, and cases of state ordered murders, rapes, tortures and abductions carried out by North Koreas repressive state security apparatus. Even China is fed up and has agreed to act on North Korea.

    So what is it about you Leftists that you blind yourselves to such evil? Why do you constantly defend these monsters like the Kims & the Castros, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot and the whole rotten gang of totalitarian thugs?

    Instead you whine about the crimes and misdemeanours of the USA. Yes, the USA has sometimes been a bully, intervened in other countries and supported dictators of the right, but any hypocritical American Leftist who is incapable of admitting the horrible litany of crimes committed in the name of Communism is not morally qualified to comment on the sins of the country he lives in and who’s freedom and affluence he enjoys.

  • What is truly amazing is that people like you are so wedded to your ideology, that you actually support and defend the monstrous and criminal North Korean regime. That Cuba engages in illegal business deal with North Korea speaks volumes about the nature of the Castro regime.

  • If the US of A were NOT involved in this incident, I would be very surprised. But then when an entire Country suffers with paranoia, what else is to be expected? Each of the Agencies within the US of A don’t trust each other and have no working relationship. The propaganda that they spew about North Korea is similar to pages from a comic book.
    God bless Native Americans.

  • Does anyone doubt that the US has a satellite dedicated to monitoring this ship while at sea and once it reaches port in Cuba? If I were North Korea, I would keep quiet about the sugar and write it off as a $5 million lesson.

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