A North Korean ship caught with military equipment including missiles concealed under sacks of brown sugar has prodded Cuba into giving some answers on Tuesday night. Belligerent North Korea, which is openly developing offensive nuclear missiles and other weapons, is banned by the United Nations from importing and exporting the weapons. The video will give you a look at the North Korean ship and the weapons found onboard — including a tweeted photo of a seized missile from Panama’s president Ricardo Martinelli himself.
As Llowell Williams reported previously for The Inquisitr, the Chong Chon Gang shipping vessel was detained as it attempted to pass through the Panama Canal with the contraband on Monday night. The ship has been in trouble before, and the local authorities suspected it of smuggling drugs as it headed on its way from Cuba toward North Korea through Panama’s famous Canal Zone.
Instead the Panamanian officials were shocked to discover that the North Korean ship was carrying the missiles. The captain tried and failed to commit suicide. Crew members themselves tried to sabotage the ship by cutting cables. But ultimately all of the 35 crew members on board were arrested.
The ship itself has been seized and is being cautiously searched by hand for more weapons — a process Panama has said could take a week.
According to a CNN report, Cuba has now acknowledged ownership of the weapons on the North Korean ship in an announcement Tuesday night on state TV. They said that the weapons were obsolete and were being shipped to North Korea for repair — which seemed like a fairly provocative statement from the island nation.
Here’s some key statements from that report where a Cuban Foreign Ministry admitted that the vessel carried 240 metric tons of what they called obsolete weapons:
“The agreements subscribed by Cuba in this field are supported by the need to maintain our defensive capacity in order to preserve national sovereignty. The Republic of Cuba reiterates its firm and unwavering commitment with peace, disarmament, including nuclear disarmament, and respect for international law.”
A Washington Post report said that there appeared to be new and growing links between the two nations. In early July, a man they called a top North Korean general met with high Cuban officials on the island — including President Raul Castro.
An arms-trafficking expert Hugh Griffiths told WaPo that, “After this incident there should be renewed focus on North Korean-Cuban links.”
Panama’s capture of the North Korean ship and its Cuban missiles will likely raise that awareness.
[still Panama Canal file photo by Lyn Gateley via Flickr, Creative Commons]