Panama Intercepts Weapons on North Korean Ship in Canal


Pointblank

Senior Member
This isn't good news for Cuba and North Korea; North Korean ship detained enroute from Cuba to North Korea carrying undeclared weapons:

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Panama finds 'undeclared weapons' on North Korean ship
Military cargo hidden in sugar containers, say officials

Panama has detained a North Korean-flagged ship coming from Cuba as it approached the Panama Canal with undeclared weapons, President Ricardo Martinelli said.

The weapons, hidden in containers of brown sugar, were detected after Panamanian authorities stopped the ship, suspecting it was carrying drugs. The vessel was pulled over near the port of Manzanillo on the Atlantic side of the canal.

"We're going to keep unloading the ship and figure out exactly what was inside," Martinelli told Panamanian television late on Monday, without giving further details.

"You cannot go around shipping undeclared weapons of war through the Panama Canal."

Martinelli said the captain of the vessel tried to commit suicide after the ship was stopped. Panamanian authorities have detained some 35 crew members.

A spokeswoman for the canal said she did not have any more information and referred questions to the attorney general. The attorney general's office did not immediately return requests for comment.

Javier Caraballo, Panama's top anti-drugs prosecutor, told local television the ship was en route to North Korea.
There is a picture from Twitter from Panama's president showing some sort of weapons system in a container:


Looks like some sort of missile system, but can't tell what it is.
 

Pointblank

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Update: This is getting more serious, with both Cuba and North Korea in big trouble now with UN inspectors arriving onsite in Panama... MiG-21 fuselages, engines, SAM radars, missiles, all hidden in containers under bags of sugar, supposedly under a 'repair contract'. I don't think that will fly with the UN or anyone.

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Seized N Korean ship: Panama finds two MiG jet fuselages
Men inspect military material found aboard the North Korean ship Chong Chon Gang Panamanian officials said two jet fuselages were found in containers on the Chong Chon Gang

Panamanian security forces searching a North Korean ship detained for illegally carrying weapons have found two military jet fuselages.

The ship was seized last week after police found undeclared military cargo hidden under bags of sugar in its hold.

Cuba said it had sent the weapons to North Korea for repairs.

Panama has asked the UN to investigate whether there has been a breach of the sanctions against North Korea, which ban the supply of arms to Pyongyang.

'Obsolete weapons'

Prosecutor Javier Caraballo said that "in the containers that we've opened up to now, we have found two fuselages of MiG-21 jets. We've also found some anti-aircraft radars, of the type to launch anti-aircraft weapons".

The Chong Chon Gang was stopped on 15 July on suspicion of carrying drugs, but instead police found military material on board.

The authorities in Havana admitted being behind the stash, saying they were Soviet-era arms from Cuba headed for repair in North Korea.

They said that the ship was carrying 240 tonnes of "obsolete" defensive weapons, including two anti-aircraft missile complexes, nine missiles in parts and spares, two MiG-21bis fighter planes and 15 MiG engines.

Panama's Attorney General Ana Belfon said the jet fuselages still smelled of fuel.

"You are all here and are sensing the strong odour of fuel, to such a degree that no-one can know what danger Panama was put in," she told reporters at the port of Manzanillo, where the search is being carried out.

Officials said seven containers had been unloaded and opened so far, but they suspected more were still hidden underneath the ship's official cargo of 10,000 tonnes of sugar.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said that there appeared to be 27 containers on board.

"As you can see we're doing the work and opening them one by one to make an inventory of everything," he said while visiting the team inspecting the containers.

Security Minister Javier Mulino said a team of more than 300 people had been working around the clock to remove the bags of sugar under which the containers were concealed.

The 35-strong North Korean crew have been charged with endangering Panama's internal security.

Suspicious journey

The Chong Chon Gang left Russia's far east on 12 April and travelled across the Pacific Ocean before entering the canal at the start of June, with Cuba as its stated destination.

The ship disappeared from satellite tracking systems after it left the Caribbean side of the canal, resurfacing on 11 July.

Experts say this may indicate that the crew switched off the system that automatically communicates details of their location.

It was stopped near Manzanillo on the Atlantic side of the canal on 15 July.

Panama says experts from the United Nations Security Council will arrive on 5 August to inspect the weapons.

Under UN sanctions, the supply of arms to North Korea is prohibited in the dispute over its controversial nuclear programme.
 

solarz

Brigadier
Update: This is getting more serious, with both Cuba and North Korea in big trouble now with UN inspectors arriving onsite in Panama... MiG-21 fuselages, engines, SAM radars, missiles, all hidden in containers under bags of sugar, supposedly under a 'repair contract'. I don't think that will fly with the UN or anyone.

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Err... what exactly is Panama or the UN going to do to either Cuba or NK?
 

Pointblank

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Err... what exactly is Panama or the UN going to do to either Cuba or NK?
More sanctions on North Korea, and UN sanctions placed on Cuba, beyond ostracizing both nations from the international community, if they haven't been already. Further scrutiny of North Korean and Cuban trade as well, with possible authorization to inspect North Korean and Cuban ships and aircraft anywhere around the world to look for weapons.
 

solarz

Brigadier
More sanctions on North Korea, and UN sanctions placed on Cuba, beyond ostracizing both nations from the international community, if they haven't been already. Further scrutiny of North Korean and Cuban trade as well, with possible authorization to inspect North Korean and Cuban ships and aircraft anywhere around the world to look for weapons.
Trade? What trade? Cuba is already sanctioned by the US, and NK by everyone but China. UN sanctions aren't going to happen as long as Russia and China have veto.
 

Pointblank

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and even if they do sanctions are more or less a tap on the wrist.
It won't help Cuba's case, with trying to get sanctions lifted or even eased by the US. The Cubans would love to have the US sanctions dropped or eased even further, but being caught red-handed transporting weapons to North Korea (even under the pretense of 'maintenance') won't help their case.
 

Pointblank

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Update to this story. Seems Cuba and North Korea have some more explaining to do:

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PANAMA CITY - Two Cuban fighter jets seized from a North Korean ship in July were in perfect condition to operate and the 15 plane engines that were found along with them were relatively new and could be used as replacements, a Panamanian official said Friday.

The comments by Belsio Gonzalez, director of Panama's National Aeronautics and Ocean Administration, appear to contradict the explanation of the cargo given by Cuban authorities.

The ship, Chong Chon Gang, was intercepted July 15 in the Panama Canal with 25 containers of Cuban military equipment found beneath the 10,000 tons of sugar. The equipment was not listed on the ship's manifest. The ship's captain and 35 crew members remain in custody in Panama.

After the seizure, Cuba said the cargo included "obsolete defensive weapons" including two MiG-21 fighter jets and 15 motors, nine missiles in parts, and two anti-aircraft systems that were being shipped to North Korea "to be repaired and returned."

But Gonzalez said in an email Friday that the fighter jets "are in operational condition and their engines are in excellent shape."
 

Jeff Head

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Update to this story. Seems Cuba and North Korea have some more explaining to do:

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Well, we all new that the "military equipment to be repaired," was a falsehood to begin with.

This stuff was buried under 10,000 tons of sugar and not on the manifest. It was hidden.

The Migs and the engines are not in need of repair.

Now, two aircraft with nine engines and a few anti-air missile systems are not a huge help to North Korea, so you have to ask yourself why they would risk it?

Maybe I was a test run to see if they could get away with it, and then send more weapons later?

Maybe they were planning to sell them to someone else from North Korea? Who knows?
 

TerraN_EmpirE

Tyrant King
Who in the world is so sanctioned and isolated that they have to buy vintage fighters from the Cubans and use North Korea as a PO box?

seriously I have no idea other then maybe the Central African republic.
 

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