HAVANA TIMES — Cuba violated the United Nations arms embargo on North Korea by sending hidden in the ship intercepted in Panama many tons of weapons that were bound for Pyongyang, says a special UN panel in an extensive report released this week in New York.
The panel of eight experts from the UN “concluded that both the cargo itself as well as the transaction between Cuba and North Korea are violations of the sanctions,” states the final report.
The “Chong Chon Gang” freighter was intercepted by the Panamanian authorities on July 10, 2013 while trying to cross the Panama Canal bound for North Korea, noted dpa news.
Aboard the ship Panamanian police officers found a shipment of 240 tons of undeclared Cuban weaponry below 10,000 tons of sugar. The weapons included two Soviet-made Volga and Pechora anti-aircraft missile complexes, nine disassembled two Mig -21 Bis aircraft and 15 aircraft engines. Havana said at the time that the ship was carrying “obsolete defensive weapons” that would be “repaired and returned.”
However, the UN experts noted many “inconsistencies” in the actions and statements of those involved, making it clear that the goal was to “circumvent” the embargo imposed on North Korea by sending it banned weapons.
The report points out that some of the weapons found are “irreparable”, such as the ammunition and projectiles, others had no “immediate need to be repaired” since their “recent” operation was certified, such as the case of the night binoculars. Finally, other weapons had not been used before and were even in their “original package,” says the 127-page report.
Experts believe that the theory that Cuba did not expect the return of the weapons sent to North Korea and that a “change of ownership” was to take place is also supported by the fact that they had deleted all the “means of identification and insignia” for example on the MiG -21 fighters of the Cuban Air Force.
“The extraordinary and extensive efforts to hide the arms shipment and related material, and instructions found on board the ship to make a false statement to enter the Panama Canal, point to a clear and conscious intention of avoiding [UN] resolutions,” concludes the report.
The report did not see the “need” for new measures to strengthen the North Korean sanctions, although at the same time it warns that the case of the “Chong Chon Gang” is a sign that Pyongyang remains a “tough challenge” to the international community for its “experience in actions to evade the sanctions.”
The report goes on to make two “recommendations” to the UN member countries.
On the one hand, it states that “techniques used to hide” the illegal cargo in the case of the intercepted vessel in Panama demonstrates the importance of “implementing a rigorous diligence to verify the contents of cargo originating in or destined” to North Korea, as well as the “validity” of the documents submitted and the” identity” of all involved.
The committee also “encourages” countries to “revise” their dealings with North Korea, especially those on military cooperation signed before 2006, as they “may contain terms or elements inconsistent with the measures (sanctions) imposed by resolutions of the Security Council” in recent years.
The “Chong Chon Gang” finally departed from Panama bound for Cuba in mid-February, after paying a fine of US $693,333 to the Panama Canal Authority.