Friday 15 November 2019

North Korea weapons ship seized in Panama

Juan Zamorano Panama City

A North Korean ship carrying weapons systems parts buried under sacks of sugar was seized as it tried to cross the Panama Canal on its way from Cuba to its home country, which is barred by United Nations sanctions from importing sophisticated weapons or missiles, Panamanian officials said.

The ship appeared to be transporting a radar-control system for a Soviet-era surface-to-air missile system, according to a private defence analysis firm that examined a photograph posted on Twitter by Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli.

Mr Martinelli said the ship, identified as the 14,000-ton Chong Chon Gang, was carrying missiles and other arms, but he provided no specific evidence or details about the cargo. He said on his Twitter account that the arms were "hidden in containers underneath the cargo of sugar."

The photo (above) posted by the president shows a green tube that appears to be a horizontal antenna for the SNR-75 'Fan Song' radar, which used to guide missiles fired by the SA-2 air-defence system found in former Warsaw Pact and Soviet-allied nations, said Neil Ashdown, an analyst for IHS Jane's Intelligence.

Jane's isn't sure where the system in the photo was manufactured but the radar would be useful to North Korea as part of a dense air defence network, Mr Ashdown said.

"It is possible that this could be being sent to North Korea to update its high altitude air-defence capabilities," he said.

Irish Independent

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