Video: North Korea caught shipping missile parts … to Cuba?

posted at 2:01 pm on July 16, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

How bad was this botched attempt at an arms sale? Panama initially inspected the Chong Chon Gang because they suspected the crew of smuggling drugs.  Instead, they discovered a cache of arms that could touch off another standoff between Washington and Havana over missiles:

The president of Panama says a North Korean ship has been caught trying to smuggle sophisticated missile equipment through the Panama Canal.

Speaking on Radio Panama, Ricardo Martinelli said the ship was stopped on the Atlantic coast of Panama because it was suspected it was carrying drugs.

He said it was found to have other cargo of greater concern when it was searched.

“When we started to unload the shipment of sugar, we located containers that we believe to be sophisticated missile equipment, and that is not allowed,” he said.

“The world needs to sit up and take note: you cannot go around shipping undeclared weapons of war through the Panama Canal.”

The ship was actually going back to North Korea with the arms on board, after leaving port from Cuba.  That adds another bizarre element to the case.  Pyongyang doesn’t import its missile technology, at least not from half a world away; they develop most of it themselves, with at least tacit support from its Chinese patrons.  North Korea is an exporter of missile technology.  Did they try to make a sale to Cuba, and fail at it?  Are these returns for defects?

As CNN reports, this isn’t the first time that Pyongyang has been caught violating UN sanctions against its arms sales:

The analyst raises the question of whether the ship merely made a port stop in Cuba to do other business, but that seems unlikely. If you’re smuggling arms illegally, you don’t make extra stops before closing the deal — especially going this far out of the way and through the Panama Canal, where it’s certain that inspections will be made. If Cuba is buying missiles (if indeed that’s what they are), then those missiles will have only one target in mind, and the US will have to act to eliminate that threat. But even that seems like an odd move for the Castro brothers at this point, who have the friendliest administration they’ve faced in Washington in decades, if ever.

Bizarre, indeed.


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Sub standard arms?

Bmore on July 16, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Of course China does a wink, wink, nod, nod.

Bmore on July 16, 2013 at 2:05 PM

That is a sweeter load of sugar for NKOR than normal.

Panama initially inspected the Chong Chon Gang because they suspected the crew of smuggling drugs.

Although this ship has a prior history of drug smuggling, I’m going to guess that this is the official cover story to obscure a Cuban tipster.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on July 16, 2013 at 2:10 PM

I think it was actually the Choom Gang that did it.

Tom Servo on July 16, 2013 at 2:12 PM

oh…snap!

workingclass artist on July 16, 2013 at 2:12 PM

Ho Lee Fuk!

Electrongod on July 16, 2013 at 2:14 PM

Yea, but the Cubans are using them to repair 55 Chevys.

faraway on July 16, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Were the missile parts N. Korean missile parts or Russian missile parts? Long range, medium range or short range missiles?

N. Korea has been unable to make their Taepo Dong missiles work properly, with any degree of reliability.

Could this be an effort to use Russian missile technology to gain some advances in their long range missile program?

Many of N. Korea’s short and medium range missiles are either Russian systems or missiles that are based on Russian systems.

Grinch on July 16, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Cuba sending DPRK old Soviet stuff for evaluation and use ?

Jabberwock on July 16, 2013 at 2:19 PM

Paging JFK, please pick up the red couresty phone.

Steve Eggleston on July 16, 2013 at 2:20 PM

It actually makes more sense that the arms sales are using Cuba as a filter to screen their real source. Although that source will be pretty obvious once an inspection of the missile components is done.

I’d bet you dollars to donuts that the Iranians are in on this little scheme. They, the North Koreans, and Syrians have been blood brothers for years in the development of nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

Now think about the number of Iranians and Hezzbollah folks in South America. They’ve been buying up large areas of land and constructing “Muslim Centers” on them for years now. Very easy for loads of “sugar” to be brought in to help out their “sweet tooths”, and all that.

The Iranians are very much driven by an apocalyptic/Messianic ideology, to the extent that Ahmadinijad had no problem speaking about HOPING to bring Armageddon upon the world in order to bring back the 12th Imam. He (and the Mad Mullahs of Iran) really ARE that crazy.

This is a very disturbing development, in my opinion, and one that asks why our “leadership” in Washington seems to be turning a blind eye to the rise of islamists in South America.

TKindred on July 16, 2013 at 2:22 PM

On further review … not offensive missiles but defensive missiles … i.e. SAM systems.

N. Korea has mostly SA-2 systems, which are fairly obsolete.

This could be an effort to buy upgrades to their current defense network.

Grinch on July 16, 2013 at 2:24 PM

Obama wants to do his Bay of Pigs impersonation.

portlandon on July 16, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Were the missile parts N. Korean missile parts or Russian missile parts? Long range, medium range or short range missiles?

N. Korea has been unable to make their Taepo Dong missiles work properly, with any degree of reliability.

Could this be an effort to use Russian missile technology to gain some advances in their long range missile program?

Many of N. Korea’s short and medium range missiles are either Russian systems or missiles that are based on Russian systems.

Grinch on July 16, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Why would the Russians, who share a small land border with North Korea, ship them via Cuba?

Cuba sending DPRK old Soviet stuff for evaluation and use ?

Jabberwock on July 16, 2013 at 2:19 PM

Interesting theory, but I rather suspect that the North Koreans and Cubans have similar (ex-)Soviet tech.

Could it be the Iranians shipping through Cuba?

Steve Eggleston on July 16, 2013 at 2:28 PM

But even that seems like an odd move for the Castro brothers at this point, who have the friendliest administration they’ve faced in Washington in decades, if ever.

it makes perfect sense. its an admin that isnt watching very closely and that will do nothing when you are caught. and it puts missiles in place for the next admin which will surely not be as accomodating.

chasdal on July 16, 2013 at 2:29 PM

Obama wants to do his Bay of Pigs impersonation.

portlandon on July 16, 2013 at 2:26 PM

He does think he is the black JFK…

Gatsu on July 16, 2013 at 2:31 PM

TKindred on July 16, 2013 at 2:22 PM

I swear I didn’t see that before I asked whether the weapons were Iranian in origin.

BTW, it’s good to know I’m not the only ones who call their rulers the Mad Mullahs.

Steve Eggleston on July 16, 2013 at 2:32 PM

North Korea’s version of Fast and Furious??

Deano1952 on July 16, 2013 at 2:32 PM

Ho Lee Fuk!

Electrongod on July 16, 2013 at 2:14 PM

HA!

Wi Tu Lo appreciates that snark.

workingclass artist on July 16, 2013 at 2:38 PM

Obama wants to do his Bay of Pigs impersonation.

portlandon on July 16, 2013 at 2:26 PM

He does think he is the black JFK…

Gatsu on July 16, 2013 at 2:31 PM

But I thought he was the Black Lincoln…and then the Black FDR…and then the Black Reagan…

exhausting really…

workingclass artist on July 16, 2013 at 2:41 PM

What? We thought this was the Suez canal! Omar! You IDIOT!

Turtle317 on July 16, 2013 at 2:42 PM

It could be an attempt by North Korea to get parts it can use to refurbish the SAM systems it currently has. A lot of North Korea’s weapons are old cold war gear from the 60s and early 70s.

I do wonder though what the Cubans got in exchange for their old and obsolete weapon systems?

werehawk on July 16, 2013 at 2:45 PM

…one that asks why our “leadership” in Washington seems to be turning a blind eye to the rise of Islamists in South America.

TKindred on July 16, 2013 at 2:22 PM

The why is simple, we have the Imam in Chief leading from behind.

kirkill on July 16, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Sounds like Sum Ting Wong was the Captain of this ship.

Imrahil on July 16, 2013 at 3:04 PM

The crew resisted pretty hard. The captain committed suicide. Very bizarre indeed.

jake49 on July 16, 2013 at 3:07 PM

Ruh roh…

Bang Ding Ow

petefrt on July 16, 2013 at 3:32 PM

Cuba sending DPRK old Soviet stuff for evaluation and use ?

Jabberwock on July 16, 2013 at 2:19 PM

Could be!

it makes perfect sense. its an admin that isnt watching very closely and that will do nothing when you are caught. and it puts missiles in place for the next admin which will surely not be as accomodating.

chasdal on July 16, 2013 at 2:29 PM

BINGO!

Marxists don’t treat peace offensives by the US as warming of relations, but rather as opportunities to push as far as they can until we find a spine again.

And no matter who is the next President, they cannot possibly be as spineless and unmoved by our national interests as Pi$sy McStompypants.

Adjoran on July 16, 2013 at 3:35 PM

SA2s are sophisticated? The picture is of a radar system from the 60s. Someone was trying to make a buck.

lexhamfox on July 16, 2013 at 5:10 PM

Why would the Russians, who share a small land border with North Korea, ship them via Cuba?

Cuba sending DPRK old Soviet stuff for evaluation and use ?

Jabberwock on July 16, 2013 at 2:19 PM

Interesting theory, but I rather suspect that the North Koreans and Cubans have similar (ex-)Soviet tech.

Could it be the Iranians shipping through Cuba?

Steve Eggleston on July 16, 2013 at 2:28 PM

Neither the Russians or the Iranians would.

In spite of The One’s lack of interest in the Navy, we still own the Atlantic and the Southern Approaches, not to mention EASPAC and SOUWESPAC. That ship could be intercepted almost anywhere along a 17,000 mile course. From the Iranians’ POV, it would make more sense to load it at one of their ports (like Bandar Khomeini)to send it through the Straits of Hormuz and around India, thereby also avoiding Gibraltar, where the Royal Navy might take an “unhealthy” interest in it.

As for Russia, it could go by truck from Vladivostok. A distance of about 150 km to the NORKOR border.

It is more likely (by Occam’s Razor) that Cuba was the destination, not a waypoint. And never underestimate the Castro brothers’ capacity for high-stakes brinksmanship. (Remember, they even made Khrushchev and Brezhnev nervous.)

They might see threatening Florida or the South Central States as a way to get concessions from The One. By now, I’m sure they’ve figured out that he’s at least as gullible as Carter, if not more so, and probably twice as delusional.

Just the sort of POTUS they love.

cheers

eon

eon on July 16, 2013 at 9:15 PM

Might be that the Cubans are contracting Lil’Un to do some refurbishment work on some very old missiles. The birds have what is called ‘shelf life’ and I’ll wager that in the case of Warsaw Pact hardware it is on the order of 5 to 7 years perhaps stretching to ten. Things like ‘thermal batteries’ which contain elements from the edges of the periodic table that you heat & mix to generate copious power densities for missile power sources, and gas fired gyroscopes must be checked and refurbished from time to time. I imagine Fidel and his little brother got a great SOW and low bid from the NORKOS. I wonder what the turn around time is for the SA-2′s? I wonder if they’ll get vacuum tube kits from Sovotek?

Missilengr on July 17, 2013 at 1:20 PM

SA-2′s were being shot at my Dad’s B-52 over downtown Hanoi in 1972. This is a totally obsolete system, a high-altitude SAM system with very poor tracking capabilities. Even in 1972 our SEAD capability over the Hanoi complex was so strong that the missile gunners had to fire their weapons ballistically (no radar guidance) because turning on their fire control radars would quickly get them a Shrike or cluster bomb on their position. Sure, they’re in violation of arms control protocols, but this is hardly a wonder weapon here.

quikstrike98 on July 17, 2013 at 2:38 PM