Is Cuba Shilling for North Korea in the Congo?

Saturday, November 22, 2014
Cuba has clearly become North Korea's biggest international shill.

Last year, over 240 tons of Cuban weapons were interdicted en route to North Korea.  This was the largest violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions to date.

And just last month, Cuba led a shameful effort in the United Nations to whitewash North Korea's human rights violations and protect the Kim regime from possible prosecution for "crimes against humanity."

This week, Cuban state media reported that senior military officials from the Democratic Republic of the Congo were visiting Havana in order to "discuss expanding technical military cooperation."

They met with Castro's Minister of Defense (FAR), Alvaro Lopez Miera, and and other senior military officials. (See image below).

This may sound somewhat innocuous, but as The University of Miami's Dr. Jaime Suchlicki reminded us last year in "Cuba and North Korea: Brothers in 'Arms'":

"For the past 50 years, Cuba has been an ally and supporter of numerous anti-American regimes and revolutionary and terrorist groups, some still struggling to attain and consolidate power and impose Marxist ideologies on their population. One of these is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congolese army has failed to quell a growing 10 month insurgencies which has dragged the country’s eastern region back to war. The rebellion could increase the possibility of conflict with neighboring Uganda and Rwanda, which allegedly are supporting the rebels. The Marxist Congolese government led by Joseph Kabila, a close friend of Cuba, has been struggling to retain power and crush the rebellion.

Congo is a major source of uranium, which North Korea needs for its nuclear program. Shipments of North Korean weapons bound for the Congo have been intercepted in the past. Are the Cubans and North Koreans gambling to support their comrades in the Congo? The Director of the Sub-Saharan Department of Cuba’s Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador to the Congo, Hector Igarza, led a high level, little publicized, delegation to Congo in February of this year, perhaps offering Cuban support to the beleaguered Congo regime. In September 2011, Kabila visited Gen. Raul Castro in Havana.

If it is determined that the weapons were destined for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or any other nation, it could have significant implications."

In 2010, a shipment of North Korean arms destined for the Congo was interdicted by South Africa.

As the BBC reported:

"South Africa has confirmed it seized banned military equipment on a ship sailing from North Korea to the Republic of Congo.

The foreign ministry said it had reported the seizure to the UN Security Council, saying the shipment broke a UN weapons sanction against North Korea.

The report said spare parts for T-55 tanks were hidden among sacks of rice in two shipping containers."

Moreover, last year, an "arms for uranium" agreement pact between Zimbabwe and North Korea was denounced, with Congolese President Joseph Kabila's family-owned mining company, Cosleg, playing a key role.

As a reminder, it was a "technical military cooperation" visit to Havana by senior North Korean military officials that preceded last year's illegal arms interdiction.

It's worth keeping an eye on.