Are the recent purges (executions) in North Korea's leadership a punishment for getting caught smuggling weapons from Cuba?
After all, Cuba's air force chief, General Pedro Mendiondo, was already "killed" in a mysterious car crash after the incident.
It's clear Castro and Kim are trying to wash their hands -- totalitarian style -- after getting them caught in the "proliferation" jar.
From The Economist:
The Cuban connection
This is not the best time to be a confidante of Jang Sung Taek, the uncle of Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, who was executed in Pyongyang this week. One man who is apparently already counting the cost of close association with Mr Jang is the North Korean ambassador to Cuba.
Ambassador Jon Yong Jin is a veteran diplomat who boasted what were considered, until very recently, impeccable credentials: he is married to Mr Jang's elder sister. South Korean officials say he was ordered back home on around December 6th. (Another diplomat to be recalled to Pyongyang was North Korea’s ambassador to Malaysia, a nephew of Mr Jang’s.) Mr Jon’s appointment in February 2012, together with a high-profile five-day visit in June 2013 to Havana by the head of the North Korean army's general staff, General Kim Kyok Sik, had been seen as a sign of closer alliance between two enduring communist powers.
Despite a broadly-shared ideology, Cuba and North Korea have had their differences. President Kim Il Sung, a proponent of the non-aligned movement, was apparently unimpressed by Fidel Castro's admiration of the Soviet Union. Castro only visited Pyongyang once, in 1986. His decision that no statues to living persons (ie, himself) would be put up in Cuba appeared to be an attempt to distance Cuba’s version of communism from the personality cults of North Korea. In the 1980s Cuba did receive (apparently for free) 100,000 AK47s from North Korea, but trade had been minimal until recently.
Under Raul Castro (who formally took over the Cuban presidency in 2008), military and commercial co-operation appears to have increased. The nature of the relationship was dramatically exposed in July, when the Panamanian authorities intercepted a North Korean ship carrying arms from Cuba. The ship had plied the same route at least once before. Cuba initially described the intercepted cargo as nothing more than aid in the form of sugar. When weapons were discovered under the bags of sugar, the authorities in Havana then attempted to dismiss the cache as "obsolete" items that were en route to North Korea for repairs (the UN prohibits all arms transfers to North Korea).
But a thorough inspection suggests that was not the case. The vessel was carrying 25 shipping containers with military equipment inside. The cargo included two Mig-21 jet fighters. The jet fuel inside their tanks, along with maintenance logs, indicated that they had recently been flown. Ammunition and 15 apparently new MiG engines were also discovered. Panama’s foreign minister, Fernando Nuñez Fabrega, says he believes the shipment was "part of a major deal" between the two countries. The United Nations is preparing a report on the episode.
Shortly after the ship’s interception, General Kim Kyok Sik, the army chief who had met Raul Castro in August, was dismissed (although some reports suggest his appointment was always temporary). In its unprecedented character assassination of Mr Jang before his summary execution, North Korea said, among other things, that he "stretched his tentacles" into areas where he should not have been interfering. Whether the arms deal with Cuba was an example of that may never be known. But it does seem likely that North Korea will need a new man in Havana.
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