UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A North Korean cargo ship Panama said was hiding missile equipment in a shipment of brown sugar from Cuba appears to have violated a U.N. arms embargo on Pyongyang, Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said on Wednesday.
The ship was stopped last week as it headed into the Panama Canal and Panamanian authorities arrested the crew on Monday after finding undeclared missile-shaped objects.
“Clearly the facts still need to be established,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters on Wednesday.
“But on the face of it, the transfer of these weapons to North Korea would be a violation of the sanctions regime on North Korea,” he said. “Therefore there are questions to be answered, which need to be followed up.”
Cuba said on Tuesday evening that the ship was loaded at one of its ports with 10,000 tons of sugar and 240 tons of “obsolete defensive weaponry,” according to a statement by the Cuban Foreign Ministry.
Cuba said the weapons were being sent back to North Korea for repair and included two anti-aircraft missile batteries, nine disassembled rockets, two MiG-21 fighter jets, and 15 MiG-21 engines, all Soviet-era military weaponry built in the middle of the last century.
The U.N. arms embargo on North Korea covers all exports by Pyongyang and most imports, with the exception of small arms and light weapons and related materiel. But in order to export small arms to Pyongyang, states must notify the U.N. North Korean sanctions committee in advance.
If the U.N. sanctions on North Korea were to be expanded to include individuals or entities related to the shipment discovered by Panama, that process would likely take at least several months, U.N. diplomats said.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; editing by Jackie Frank