Panama: N. Korean Ship Cargo Included Soviet-Era Jets

Global Security Newswire Staff

The Panamanian government on Sunday announced that two MiG fighter planes had been discovered in the hold of the North Korean freighter it seized earlier this month as the ship attempted to pass through the Panama Canal, Reuters reported.


The Soviet-era supersonic jets have already been claimed by Cuba, which said it struck a deal with Pyongyang to transport the planes and other obsolete weaponry, including radar components, to North Korea for repairs and eventual repatriation back to the Caribbean nation.


Panama is still unloading the North Korean Chong Chon Gang so there might be further announcements of discovered smuggled arms. Thus far, all found weapons match the list of items Havana said were being transported by the vessel. The incident is to be investigated by the U.N. Security Council as Pyongyang is under severe sanctions that bar it from engaging in any international weapons deals.


Meanwhile, think tank experts from the United States, China and South Korea convened in Seoul on Monday for semi-official “Track 1.5” discussions aimed at figuring out how to reinvigorate long-paralyzed regional efforts aimed at denuclearizing North Korea, the Yonhap News Agency reported.


The Chinese and U.S. experts involved in the discussions differed over their preferred approach for convincing the North to end its nuclear weapons work, unidentified South Korean officials said. Washington wants to up the ante through heightened economic penalties, while Beijing favors leaving it to the North to decide on returning to the aid-for-denuclearization talks.


U.S. State Department Korean affairs head Robert Rapson, Chinese Minister Counselor Chen Hai and South Korean No. 2 nuclear negotiator Lee Do-hoon participated in the three-way talks. The government officials met in South Korea to collect proposals for reinvigorating negotiations with Pyongyang, officials said.