Silence in Cuba on North Korean Ship Detained in Panama

Weapons shipment seized in transit through Panama

The Chong Chon Gang ship.  Photo: IHS Maritime
The Chong Chon Gang ship. Photo: IHS Maritime

HAVANA TIMES — Panamanian police seized military equipment, including missiles, on board the North Korean ship trying to cross the Panama Canal en route from Cuba, announced Monday the country’s president, Ricardo Martinelli, reported dpa news.

The president told Radio Panama on Monday night there had been a suspicion that the ship, the Chong Chon Gang, bound for North Korea, was carrying drugs, so it was retained to verify their cargo.

After the start of the search operation by armed police officers, the ship’s captain attempted to commit suicide amid a mutiny of the sailors, according to the official report. In the ship’s hold was also 220,000 quintals of sugar.

Martinelli said that the waterway is administered by Panama as “a canal of peace and not of war”, noting that the transport of undeclared war weaponry will not be allowed.

So far officials have not ruled Cubans.

10 thoughts on “Silence in Cuba on North Korean Ship Detained in Panama

  • Which has nothing to do with terrorism, since NK is not a terrorist state. Cuba may be breaking the ban on arms trade with NK, but that has absolutely nothing to do with terrorism, so it should not be a reason to keep Cuba in that specific list.

    Is a very simple and straightforward reasoning except to people that see the world in black an white and think that enemy state = terrorist state. Is not and that kind of reasoning is simply flawed. And dangerous.

    Is the same stupidity that resulting in charging the surviving Boston marathon bomber with using a WMD. It perverts the meaning of the word and trivializes its use making it a common day occurrence and not the epitome of evil that should be fought by any mean available.

    Here is your link:

  • We are likely never to learn the truth about the origin and intended ultimate destination of these war materials. What we DO know is exactly what you said. To try to hid this ancient crap under bags of brown sugar points to the amateurish nature of the transaction.

  • It’s true. However, I defend my naivety by declaring how difficult it remains for me to acknowledge that a poor nation like Cuba that can not even maintain a consistent supply of toilet paper, feminine napkins, or cooking oil would distract themselves with such foolhardy and ultimately doomed activities. If the Castros would just focus on feeding, educating and clothing the Cuban people, they would be much better off. Socialism has never worked anywhere in the world. Why would these guys think they could overcome the founding principles of capitalism, avarice and ambition?

  • AC, it is often the practice of children or naïve adults to defend a wrongdoing by stating “other people do it too!”. What France did with Libya or Russia with Syria or even China with NK is dramatically different than a Cuba-NK relationship. For one, these nations maintain a multilayered relationship with the US and many times, serve as conduits between the international community and these rogue nations. Cuba IS a rogue nation with no good intentions in their relationship with the NK other than how they can jointly f*ck with the US.

  • Your point is moot, since NK doesn’t belong to the list of states sponsors of terrorism. They may have been ignoring an UN ban on arms sales to a specific country, but many countries have been guilty of the same, including ALL UN security council members (most common offenders of the same are US, Russia, China and France).

  • The shipment included a Mig fighter jet, which is banned. The missiles and missile radar system might be included in the ban too. Also, Pananian law requires ships to declare their cargo before transiting the canal. The North Korean captain failed to do so.
    So Cuba violated the UN embargo with at least some of the cargo and the North Koreans violated the embargo and Panamanian law.

  • Benefit of the doubt? I wouldn’t have guessed you would be so naive. What do you suppose is the basis of Cuba’s growing relationship with Iran? A shared love of salsa, rum and roast pork? A new fashion craze among Cubana women for full length burkas?

    Take it from the old man himself when he visited Tehran and declared that by working together they could bring about the destruction of America.

    My guess is they figured they could make some quick easy cash selling missile components to the Norks. Desperate need meets desperate greed.

  • If thats the case, thats completely legal as far as the UN resolution is concerned regardless of where the parts originated (I have serious doubt Cuba has anything technologically relevant to provide to NK).

    Here is the relevant portion of the UN resolution:

    (a) all Member States shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK, through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories, of:

    (i) any battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms, or related materiel including spare parts, or items as determined by the Security Council or the Committee established by paragraph 12 below (the Committee);

    (ii) all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology as set out in the lists in documents S/2006/814 and S/2006/815, unless within 14 days of adoption of this resolution the Committee has amended or completed their provisions also taking into account the list in document S/2006/816, as well as other items, materials, equipment, goods and technology, determined by the Security Council or the Committee, which could contribute to DPRK’s nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related or other weapons of mass destruction-related programmes;

    (iii)luxury goods;

    Here is the link:

    In short, is not a full ban on arms export, it simply bans the export of offensive equipment and parts that can be used to assemble WMDs, thats all. The weird part is how they tried to smuggle the parts thorough the canal that was amateurish and completely foolish and well, all the circus concerning the capture of the crew.

  • As reported today by CaféFuerte, NK military leadership just concluded meetings in Havana with their Cuban counterparts two weeks ago. I was willing to give Cuba benefit of the doubt regarding being included on the US list of States which sponsor Terrorists. I guess I was wrong….

  • Some new information on the shipment:

    “Military analyst IHS Jane’s released a statement Tuesday identifying the equipment shown in the photos as “fire control” radar equipment for surface-to-air missiles.

    Jane’s proposed two theories why the equipment was on board the ship. “One possibility is that Cuba could be sending the system to North Korea for an upgrade. In this case, it would likely be returned to Cuba and the cargo of sugar could be a payment for the services,” the Jane’s statement said.

    Jane’s other theory was that the fire-control radar equipment could have been en route to North Korea to augment Pyongyang’s existing air defense network. North Korea’s air defense network is arguably one of the densest in the world, but it is also based on obsolete weapons, missiles and radars. ”

    This does look very awkward for Cuba, as North Korea is under a UN embargo against importing weapons. The Cuban government must have known this fact, when the cargo was loaded onto the ship and hidden under sacks of sugar.

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