The North Korean freighter caught with an undeclared shipment of Cuban weapons in Panamanian waters last month are “without doubt” a violation of United Nations sanctions against arms transfers to Pyongyang, according to a United Nations report.
Experts of the Sanctions Committee at the U.N. Security Council, according to a statement by Panama’s Ministry of Security, gave a preliminary analysis according to multiple news websites, and Reuters quotes a diplomat from Panama’s Ministry of Security:
“According to the first report … the Cuban weapons found in the North Korean ship ‘without doubt’ violate the U.N. sanctions, which validates Panama’s position on how it acted.”
“The Panel (of Experts) confirmed the Panamanian evaluation that there is a violation of the sanctions regime,” a diplomat also told Reuters.
Two officials from North Korea were scheduled to arrive in Panama, according to La Prensa, which also reports they are expected to give “consular assistance” to the 35 crew members of the North Korean ship Chong Chon Gang, being detained at Fort Sherman in Colón.
Pyongyang requested on Aug. 9 that Panama grant access to the crew as a “humanitarian gesture,” according to the story. A “diplomatic” exit to the boat incident, according to Panamanian Foreign Minister Fernando Núñez, is also being sought states La Prensa.
Days later Panama responded saying the matter was in the hands of the UN, which had to inspect the weapons to see if they violated the embargo.
The charge leveled against the North Korean crew members is “acting against collective security,” which is punished by up to 12 years in prison, states La Prensa.
Panama has said that the outcome of the UN investigation “is crucial to define the fate” of the weapons, the 35 crew members and the 10,000 tons of sugar in which the weapons were hidden.
The Panama Canal authority, according to a Foxnews report, previously said it would impose as much as a $1 million fine on the North Korean freighter caught with an undeclared shipment of Cuban weapons. Quoting the canal administrator Jorge Quijano:
“It is a flagrant violation of safe passage through the Panama Canal and we have little tolerance for this kind of activity. It is going to be sanctioned…. It’s obvious that there were containers that had not been declared, not to mention what was inside them.”
And information from the website for the handyshippingguide recently was the report that:
“The ship remains under seizure whilst the matter is decided and additionally both the master, and the entire ships crew have been charged with offences relating to the illegality of the consignment. Some reports say that the ships master both attempted suicide and had a heart attack during the raid by Panamanian Customs whilst the crew fought with officials, and that the authorities were acting on a tip off that the ship might be carrying drugs or other contraband. The shipment seemingly left Cuba at the time of a visit to the island by a North Korean General, Kim Kyok Sik when he met with President Raoul Castro.”