U.N. Report: Cuba-North Korea Weapons Smuggling is "Sanctions Violation"

Thursday, February 13, 2014
A U.N. Panel of Experts has turned over its findings regarding Cuba-North Korea weapons smuggling to the Security Council's Sanctions Committee.

Japan's Kyodo News International has seen the report and writes:

Last July Panamanian authorities were notified about the North Korea vessel Chong Chon Gang, which was initially stopped on suspicions of carrying drugs.

However, it later turned out to be carrying banned items, such as anti-aircraft missile complexes, missiles in parts and spares, two Mig-21 fighter jets and motors for that type of airplane, which were loaded in Cuba, and 10,000 tons of sugar, according to the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

Some members of the Panel of Experts traveled to Panama to inspect the contents of the ship and also visited Cuba to further investigate the allegations.

Havana had officially claimed that the shipment involved "obsolete defensive weapons" that were to be "repaired and returned."

The panel recently turned over the report to the U.N. committee that is charged with overseeing the implementation of Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea, since it conducted underground nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and most recently in 2013.

It was determined that both the shipment and the transaction between Cuba and North Korea constituted "sanctions violations."

Evidence found aboard the ship also pointed to the involvement of the North Korean staff in Cuba. Documents from the vessel indicate that the consignor of the sugar was Cubazucar and the consignee, Korean Central Marketing and Trading Corp.

While Cuba confirmed the arrangement, it declined to give the panel copies of the agreements citing confidentiality clauses in the contracts.

According to the report, the ship sailed around the western side of Cuba and docked in Havana from June 4-9 when it unloaded its cargo. After leaving the capital city, it spent time drifting north of Cuba and docked in the port of Mariel on the 20th, where it took on the arms and related materiel. On the 22nd it then sailed to Puerto Padre and later docked there to load the sugar. On July 5 it left Cuban waters, heading towards Nampo, North Korea.

The panel also determined that there was a "comprehensive planned strategy to conceal the existence and nature of the cargo."

Among other things there was a "concealment and disguise" of the ship's position as the automatic identification system was turned off to hide its location. While the logs showed multiple ports of call, they omitted the stop in Mariel.

North Korea is also making an "increasing use of multiple and tiered circumvention techniques," and through the first hand first time investigation of a North Korean ship the panel benefited by gaining an "unrivaled insight" into some circumvention techniques.