Today, the U.N. Security Council ("UNSC") blacklisted Ocean Maritime Management Company, Ltd., the operator/manager of the North Korean vessel, Chong Chon Gang.
As such, the company will be subject to an asset freeze and travel ban.
The Chong Chon Gang was intercepted last year by the Panamanian authorities (as it approached the Canal) trying to smuggle 240 tons of weapons from Cuba to North Korea.
A March 2014 report by the U.N.'s Panel of Experts on international sanctions highlighted the extent and gravity of this illegal Cuba-North Korea operation.
According to today's announcement by the UNSC:
"[Ocean Maritime Management Company, Limited] played a key role in arranging the shipment of concealed cargo of arms and related materiel from Cuba to the DPRK in July 2013. As such, it contributed to activities prohibited by the resolutions, namely the arms embargo imposed by resolution 1718 (2006), as modified by resolution 1874 (2009), and contributed to the evasion of the measures imposed by these resolutions."
In other words, the Kim regime will have a shadow company marginalized.
(Of course, it could just open a replacement -- but something is better than nothing.)
Meanwhile, the Castro regime will (thus far) suffer no consequences -- other than a lecture.
This, despite the fact that the U.N. Panel of Experts recognized the Castro regime intentionally lied to the international community about the weapons shipment.
No word on whether this will be the only sanction issued pursuant to the Chong Chon Gang incident.
But it's hard to fathom how the transport company gets sanctioned, while the supplier (and even the main purchaser) get away unscathed.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, issued a strong and commendable statement (below), but it's unfortunately overshadowed by the tepid action of the UNSC.
It should be of no surprise that other North Korean vessels continue making similar trips to Cuba, while turning off their transponders to avoid detection.
After all, who's there to be afraid of?
Here's Ambassador Power's statement:
"In July 2013, Panama seized arms aboard the vessel Chong Chon Gang that were en route from Cuba to North Korea, one of the most serious violations of the UN arms embargo on North Korea. This was a cynical, outrageous and illegal attempt by Cuba and North Korea to circumvent United Nations sanctions prohibiting the export of weapons to North Korea. That is why the Security Council's DPRK Sanctions Committee acted today to punish the North Korean regime for its latest attempt to side-step international law.
Since the Chong Chon Gang incident, the Committee has undertaken a comprehensive investigation into the violation and uncovered irrefutable facts that clearly prove Cuba and the DPRK’s intentions to violate sanctions by employing highly sophisticated deception and obfuscation techniques, including Cuba’s false claims about the transaction being a routine repair effort when detected by Panamanian and UN authorities.
With today’s welcome imposition of a global asset freeze on Ocean Maritime Management (OMM), the North Korean firm that operated the vessel, its fleet of shipping vessels will no longer be able to operate internationally. The designation of OMM sends an important message to the companies directly involved in violations of UN sanctions regimes: we will find you and hold you accountable.
We also welcome the Committee's release of an Implementation Assistance Notice to publicize the facts of the case and advise states on how to protect themselves from future arms smuggling attempts. We are pleased that with this Notice, the international community has refuted Cuba's erroneous and misleading claim that this arms shipment was allowed under UN Security Council resolutions.
The United States remains concerned about attempts by North Korea to circumvent international sanctions, and strongly condemns any efforts by nations such as Cuba to assist in the illegal evasion of binding decisions of the Council. We will remain vigilant in the enforcement of Security Council sanctions, and applaud the actions of Panama in this instance. Likewise, we applaud the cooperation and efforts of the DPRK Sanctions Committee and urge the Committee to do everything in its power to enforce the vital North Korean sanctions regime."
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