Cuba to North Korea: How much sugar do you take with your MiGs?
posted at 6:13 pm on July 22, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Panama continued to search the North Korean vessel Chong Chon Gang after finding missile systems on board as it passed through the Panama Canal. With the crew under arrest and the UN on its way, Panamanian investigators found a curious shipment under the sugar that supposedly was the main cargo on its way to Pyongyang:
Panamanian investigators unloading the cargo of a seized North Korean ship that carried arms from Cuba have found the two MiG-21 fighter jets the Cuban government had said were on board, the government said on Sunday.
Alongside the two supersonic planes, originally produced by the Soviet Union in the late 1950s, officials found two missile radar systems on board the Chong Chon Gang, President Ricardo Martinelli told reporters in the Atlantic port of Colon.
The discovery, which included cables and electrical equipment, was made inside containers on the ship Panama had feared might contain explosive material. None was found.
After stopping the vessel bound for North Korea last week, Panama revealed it had found weapons in the cargo hold late on Monday. In response, Cuba said the shipment contained a range of “obsolete” arms being sent to North Korea for repair.
The Mig-21 does qualify as “obsolete,” but that’s not the same as “ineffective.” The Soviets produced the model until 1985, and it’s not clear what generation Cuba tried to ship to North Korea. The argument that it needed repair seems odd, since the Russians might be still able to service the MiG-21 and a transfer from Havana to Moscow wouldn’t have to be hidden under bags of sugar. That also prompts the question of why Cuba can’t service its own fighters rather than ship them to a UN-embargoed nation for repairs. The same goes for India, which has hundreds still in use.