A North Korean freighter ran aground in Mexico after making a stop in Havanna, Cuba. The presence of a ship from North Korea so close to the United States border sparked concern. Last summer a different Pyongyang vessel was caught with a significant number of illegal Cuban weapons.
The Mu Du Bong, a 430-foot North Korean freighter, ran aground on a reef at the Mexican port of Tuxpan on Monday. Officials involved with the accident say the complicated task of removing the vessel from the reef will take several days. The shop was reportedly empty and destined to load cargo in Tuxpan when it ran aground.
The North Korean ship captain allegedly “lost his bearings,” the Agence France Presse reports. Tuxpan is one of the largest sugar exporting ports in Mexico. Administrators at the port told El Nuevo Herald that they did not know if Mu Du Bong was entering or leaving the port when the shipwreck occurred. The port’s captain said no one at the site was authorized to give information about the North Korea freighter.
The vessel’s voyage was reportedly similar to that of the Chong Chon Gang, a ship that was seized in Panama in 2013. The Chong Chon Gang was reportedly transporting 240 tons of Cuban weapons, 220,000 sacks of sugar, and military gear at the time.
Both of the ships from North Korea had sailed in Cuban waters, but their exact locations were not known for many days due to no reports being issued form their automatic location beacons, as safety regulations require. United Nations investigators determined that the Chong Chon Gang had intentionally turned off its locator beacon to hide its path.
Ocean Maritime Management Company LTD is the commercial agent for both of the North Korean freighters, according to a Forbes report. UN investigators contend that the company “played a key role” in arranging the concealed shipment of Cuban weapons and military gear found on the Chong Chon Gang. Weapons found on the vessel stopped last summer include two MIG-21 jets, 16 engines for the MIGs, tow anti-aircraft radar and missile systems, rocket propelled grenade systems, and artillery shells.
The Forbes report also said:
“Perhaps it’s unlikely that North Korea would so brazenly attempt another smuggling run so close to America’s shores, so soon after the seizure of the Chong Chon Gang. But in dispatching the Mu Du Bong via the Panama Canal to Cuba, Pyongyang is at the very least sticking a thumb in America’s eye, and quite possibly testing the waters for future smuggling runs.”
Cuba said the equipment was obsolete and was going to Pyongyang to be repaired and returned. The explanation meant the country was no in violation of the United Nations’ ban on the transfer of weapons to North Korea, Cuba claimed.
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[Image Via: The Times UK]