U.S. Lawmakers Want Cuba Punished for North Korean Arms Shipment
By Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
September 27, 2013 | 3:02 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- U.S. lawmakers on Thursday called for Cuba to be punished
for its illegal weapons dealings with North Korea, arguing the
international-sanctions regime would be undermined if the U.N. Security
Council does not penalize Havana.
The world learned of Cuba and North Korea's secret arms commerce in
July, when Panamanian authorities seized a North Korean freighter, the
Chong Chon Gang, as it attempted to sail through the Panama Canal. A
subsequent search of the cargo ship's hold revealed 25 containers filled
with Soviet-made conventional weapons. Havana quickly claimed ownership
of the military hardware, saying it simply was being transported to
North Korea for retrofitting, after which it would be returned to the
"Failure to hold the Cuban government fully responsible will … be a slap
in the face to our allies," Representative Matthew Salmon (R-Ariz.) said
at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing. "If Cuba is allowed to
get away with this this time, it would send a terrible message to Panama
which put its resources and its reputation on the line to intercept this
Salmon, who chairs the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said not
reprimanding Cuba "in the strongest terms available" risks sending the
message to other countries it is not worth pursuing future possible
violations of the sanctions regimes targeting North Korea and Iran.
Other nations, such as Venezuela, could be emboldened to think they can
violate Security Council sanctions targeting rogue nations and get away
with it, he said.
The Arizona lawmaker said Cuba was carrying out a "charm offensive" at
the United Nations aimed thwarting any punishment from the Security
Council committee that is responsible for sanctions against North Korea.
"Laws … that are not enforced and defended will lose value and respect,"
subcommittee Ranking Member Albio Sires (D-N.J.) said. "The U.S. and the
U.N. should demonstrate that there are consequences to defying
Subcommittee member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) criticized the Obama
administration for holding talks with Cuba on migration and resuming
mail services when Havana was carrying out secret weapon deals with
"What message do you think it sends to our commitment to regional
security, to move ahead with talks with the [Castro] regime, despite
this blatant violation of international law like the one involving the
North Korean ship?" the Florida representative said.
A full examination of the Chong Chon Gang's hold by Panamanian officials
turned up two anti-aircraft missile systems, nine broken-down missiles,
anti-tank guns, small arms, artillery, rocket-propelled grenades and two
MiG jet fighters, among other assorted aging conventional weaponry,
according to an August report by the Stockholm International Peace
Research Institute that was published by the website 38 North.
The entire weapons shipment was substantially larger and more
diversified than what Cuba initially claimed ownership of back in July,
the SIPRI report found.
North Korea predictably has denied doing anything wrong and demanded
that Panamanian authorities give it back the Chong Chon Gang and release
its crew from custody. Panama City has ignored those demands. The Panama
Canal Authority on Thursday imposed a fine of up to $1 million on the
ship's owners, according to a Reuters report.
Sires said he doubted Cuba's claim it was sending the weapons to North
Korea for overhauling.
"If only for repairs, then why did Cuba not ask other nations instead of
breaking various U.N. Security Council resolutions," he said. "With
North Korea doing its best to refurbish its military hardware, it is
more likely that fighter jets were intended to stay in North Korea."
SIPRI senior researcher Hugh Griffiths, who co-wrote the report, told
the subcommittee in an online video call that if Havana truly wants to
show it was acting in good-faith in the Chong Chon Gang incident, it
must first invite investigators from the U.N panel of sanctions experts
to the Caribbean nation and provide full disclosure on all aspects of
deal -- steps the Communist government there has not yet taken.
Griffiths said the Security Council sanctions panel should also
investigate voyages to Cuban ports by North Korean cargo ships that took
place prior to July.
"Some of these voyages may be assessed as carrying a high risk of
proliferation concern on the basis of the vessel's flag, age, past
registration, ownership patterns, its safety record and, most
importantly, various voyage routing anomalies," he said.
Source: "U.S. Lawmakers Want Cuba Punished for North Korean Arms
Shipment - NationalJournal.com" -