Cuba Rubs North Korean Weapons Smuggling in U.S.'s Face

Tuesday, March 17, 2015
A third round of talks between the United States and Cuba on the normalization of relations has just ended in Havana.

This latest round was conducted in great secrecy.

Such secrecy leads us to believe that one of the "tasks" of this trip may have been for Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson to obtain "assurances" from the Castro regime that it will no longer support terrorist groups in the future, which is one of the legal requirements necessary for the U.S. to remove Cuba from the terrorist list.

After all, the Castro regime has made it clear that being removed from the state-sponsors of terrorism list is a main pre-condition for establishing diplomatic relations.

And the Obama Administration appears willing to abide.

The enormous (tragic) irony here would be that simultaneously, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Young is in Havana celebrating "excellent relations" with Castro's regime, which includes the illegal smuggling of heavy weapons.

Last year, Cuba was found to be in violation of international sanctions for attempting to smuggle over 240 of weapons to North Korea hidden as a "sugar" shipment.

Cuba's regime got-away unscathed for this illegal act.  To the contrary, it's now being rewarded by the United States.

This month, Cuba was again found to be illegally smuggling weapons -- this time from China hidden as a "grain" shipment.

Thus, what credible "assurances" can a regime that has been caught twice in the last 20 months illegally smuggling weapons provide the United States?

In light of the timing this affront by Cuba's regime, it's important to remember the magnitude of this illegal smuggling incident.

Thus, here are some notable excerpts from the U.N Panel of Expert's report:

- The Panel concluded in its incident report submitted to the Committee that both the shipment itself and the transaction between Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were sanctions violations.

- The Panel found that the hidden cargo amounted to six trailers associated with surface-to-air missile systems and 25 shipping containers loaded with two disassembled MiG-21 aircraft, 15 engines for MiG-21 aircraft, components for surface-to-air missile systems, ammunition and miscellaneous arms-related materiel.This constituted the largest amount of arms and related materiel interdicted to or from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since the adoption of resolution 1718 (2006).

- On 20 June, the ship docked in the port of Mariel, where it took onboard the arms and related materiel.

- Cuba argued that “maintenance”, as set out in paragraph 8 (c) of resolution 1718, was distinct from “repair”, which Cuba claimed was the basis of its contract with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea... The Panel is unconvinced by Cuba’s rationale to distinguish “maintenance” and “repair.”

- The transportation of undeclared weapons and explosives in this manner posed a significant danger to all persons and facilities in proximity to the ship and should be a cause of concern among shippers, port authorities, the international maritime community and insurers.

- Evidence found on the ship (see annexes XX and XXI) pointed to involvement of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea embassy staff in Cuba. Contact phone numbers and records found in the captain’s notes led the Panel to conclude that embassy officials in Havana were engaged in making arrangements for the shipment of the consignment of arms and related materiel, including the payment methods.

- The incident involving the Chong Chon Gang revealed a comprehensive, planned strategy to conceal the existence and nature of the cargo.

- All identification markings and insignia of the Cuban Revolutionary Air Force had been removed from both MiG-21 aircraft; the Panel observed signs of overspray and scratch marks in places dedicated to original insignia.

- [The Panel] notes that the voyage of another Democratic People’s Republic of Korea-flagged and -owned vessel to Cuba presents a very similar pattern to the recent voyage of the Chong Chon Gang.

- On April 2012, the general cargo vessel O Un Chong Nyon Ho (IMO 8330815) operated by OMM,11 sailed directly from Nampo to Cuba and back without any further calls in the region. After having stopped in Havana and Puerto Padre, the O Un Chong Nyon Ho drifted for several weeks off northern Cuba before returning for three weeks to Havana. Its Automatic Identification System was switched off (in violation of IMO requirements) during these three weeks, however, effectively preventing determination of further ports’ calls,as in the case of the Chong Chon Gang.