Did North Korea Use Cuban Artillery Shells in Live-Fire Drill?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Just hours after U.S. President Barack Obama wrapped up his trip to Asia, North Korea began a provocative live-fire drill -- launching over 50 artillery shells near the South Korean border.

The artillery shells launched were similar to those intercepted in the Chong Chon Gang, a vessel carrying over 240 tons of Cuban weaponry to North Korea, in violation of international law.

As the U.N. Panel of Experts reported to the Security Council:

"The shipment included 10 lots of shells casings (packed with samples of propelling charge but without primers) of various diameters (57 to 152 mm) for various purposes (fragmentation, high explosive, armour piercing and or tracer). Each lot contained between five and eight shell casings."

At least seven other potential shipments from Cuba-North Korea have been identified.  Thus raising the question of the ones that got away.

This live-fire drill also puts into perspective the dangers and magnitude of the Cuba-North Korea arms smuggling venture.

As Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council of Foreign Relations, has previously explained:

"The Chong Chon Gang cargo included mint-condition rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) that are essential to North Korea’s efforts to extend its conventional reach on the peninsula as USFK (United States Forces Korea) command elements transition south from Seoul to Pyeongtaek."

From The Korea Herald:

N. Korea conducts live-fire drills

North Korea fired some 50 coastal artillery shells near the Northern Limit Line, a de facto inter-Korean sea border, during live-fire drills on Tuesday, further ratcheting up tension at a time when South Korea is grieving over a deadly ferry disaster two weeks ago.

None of the shells fell south of the NLL, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The 10-minute drills began at 2 p.m., some five hours after the North’s southwestern frontline command sent a fax notification to the South’s Second Fleet of its plan to stage the drills around its border islands of Wollaedo and Jangjaedo.

“In the North’s notification, it claimed the drills were part of its regular exercises. But they could be intended to raise tension near the NLL or probe the South Korean military to find out our responses,” a senior JCS official told reporters, declining to be named.

After receiving the notification, the South Korean military directed fishing crews and residents on the country’s frontline islands to evacuate to safe zones, and strengthened its readiness posture.

The military deployed four fighter jets and several warships including a guided missile destroyer to prepare against any provocations that would encroach upon South Korean territory.