Archive for the ‘U.N. Sanctions’ Category



Chong Chon Gang(nam Style) Sanctions

Posted by at 6:00 pm on August 12, 2014
Category: Cuba SanctionsNorth Korea SanctionsOFACU.N. Sanctions

Weapons found on Chong Chon Gang via [Fair Use]Avid readers of this blog will be familiar with the saga of the euphoniously named Nork vessel, the Chong Chon Gang, which was seized by the Panamanians in the Panama Canal while the vessel was attempting to carry a boatload, so to speak, of Cuban arms to North Korea. Although the Cubans claimed, ahem, that this was not a “transfer” of the arms to North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions because they retained title to the goods, they were unable to explain why, if that were the case, they buried the missiles and other armaments under enough sugar to keep the chubby Nork dictator in sweets for the next millennium or so. The attempted suicide by the ship’s captain once the Panamanians found the buried missile parts and systems also did not do much to bolster the Cuban argument that this shipment was perfectly legal.

The U.N. Panel of Experts convened to consider the legality of the shipment brushed aside Cuba’s arguments and back in March found the shipment to be a violation of U.N. sanctions on North Korea. At the end of last month, the United States joined the party and announced a variety of additions to the SDN list arising out of the Canal incident. The two North Korean companies involved in the shipment as well as the Chong Chon Gang were designated, as were 17 other Nork ships in which the two shipping companies had an interest.

In the “Some People Are Never Satisfied” category, a blogger at Capitol Hill Cubans called the Nork sanctions “enforcement malpractice” and moaned that there were no sanctions imposed on the Cuban officials involved in the Nork shipments. A Miami Herald article provided a succinct answer to this complaint

A knowledgeable Washington official noted that perhaps Treasury did not feel it was necessary to sanction Cuban government entities and individuals because they already are under strong sanctions from the U.S. trade embargo.

Good point. Given that virtually all dealings by U.S. persons and companies with Cuban officials are prohibited under the current sanctions, what exactly did the blogger contemplate as additional sanctions here? Military intervention?


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UN Calls Foul on Dennis Rodman

Posted by at 11:45 pm on March 19, 2014
Category: Economic SanctionsNorth Korea SanctionsU.N. Sanctions

By Copyright Steve Lipofsky [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons has been a ton of publicity regarding Dennis Rodman’s preposterous Happy Birthday Mr. Dictator tour on which Rodman visited North Korea’s paunchy dictator Kim Jong-Un to wish him many happy returns and many more years of human rights violations. Of course, no dictator’s birthday celebration would be complete without bottles of vodka and other gifts of tribute from has-been basketball stars.

The U.N. Panel report, which we previously reported here, included Rodman’s swag bags for Kim Jong-Un as violations of U.N. sanctions on North Korea, singling out bottles of vodka, Irish whisky, crystal decanters and glassware and a Mulberry handbag.  The Panel made clear that these all fell within the sanction’s definition of luxury goods which covers spirits, high-quality lead crystal glassware and high-quality handbags. Of course, notwithstanding the sanctions, I’d like to see a picture of Kim Jong-Un sporting the Mulberry handbag.

But the U.N. Panel also took the opportunity to swat the United States on the matter, noting that the United States had not reported these gifts to the panel. Paragraph 26 of Security Council Resolution 2094 requires member states to report evidence that the states have of non-compliance with the U.N. sanctions on North Korea. The United States was mum on the Rodman gifts, just as the United Kingdom did not report the sale of a Princess luxury yacht manufactured in Plymouth, England, to the Nork dictator.

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UN Panel Sticks Fork in Norks, Says They’re Done

Posted by at 9:53 pm on March 12, 2014
Category: North Korea SanctionsU.N. Sanctions

Weapons found on Chong Chon Gang via [Fair Use]This blog has reported twice (here and here) on the seizure by the Panamanians of the Nork vessel, the Chong Chon Gang, by Panamanians after they discovered a boatload (so to speak) of Cuban weapons on the vessel headed for North Korea. Among the more telling aspects of the story is that the weapons were hidden under mountains of sugar and that the ship’s captain attempted suicide during the course of the search. Notwithstanding this, both the Cubans and the Norks steadfastly maintained that there was nothing to see here, that everything was on the up and up, and that everyone should just move on.

Well, the United Nations Panel of Experts convened to investigate compliance with U.N. sanctions against North Korea has decided that there was indeed plenty to see here. Its just-issued report highlights the Chong Chon Gang incident (as well as other Nork shenanigans) as evidence of persistent efforts by North Korea to evade U.N. Sanctions. Here are some interesting highlights used by the report to bolster its conclusion that the Chong Chon Gang shipment violated U.N. sanctions on the prohibition of shipments of arms and materiel by member states such as Cuba to North Korea.

The panel rejected Cuba’s risible, if not hilarious, argument that the sanction prohibiting “transfer” of arms and materiel to North Korea was not violated because Cuba retained ownership of the arms being shipped to North Korea for overhaul and maintenance. The Panel correctly pointed out that such a distinction would allow countries to lease weapons to North Korea, an absurd result inconsistent with the purpose of the sanctions.

More importantly, the panel rejected the argument by pointing to the evidence of elaborate attempts by Cuba and North Korea to conceal the nature of the shipment. This argument might be summarized as “If you don’t have anything to hide, why are you so busy trying to hide it?” Among the evasive tactics cited by the Panel (above and beyond burying the stuff under a mountain of sugar) were the following:

  • After discharging its cargo in Havana, the ship drifted for 10 days in the sea north of Cuba before sailing to Mariel where it took on the weapons cargo.
  • Although documents were found on the ship identifying the consignor and consignee of the sugar shipment, no such documents were found with respect to the concealed weapons.
  • The ship’s route and position were concealed by switching off the ship’s automatic identification system.
  • False documents were submitted to the Panama Canal Authority which omitted Mariel, where the weapons were loaded, from the list of prior ports visited.
  • The vessel ignored the standard practice of loading dangerous cargo, which included ammunition, rockets and explosives, at the top of the ship,  loading it instead deep in the hold where it could be concealed by the sugar cargo. The weight of the sugar could have contributed to a catastrophic explosion, endangering the ship, its crew and nearby ships and their crew. Clearly concealment was a higher priority than safety.

There’s more in the Panel Report, including a detour involving Dennis Rodman’s Happy Birthday, Mr. Dictator celebrity tour, so stay tuned for future posts on Nork sanction evasion techniques.

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What Happens in Panama Stays in Panama (including 200,000 bags of brown sugar)

Posted by at 7:08 pm on November 19, 2013
Category: Cuba SanctionsEconomic SanctionsNorth Korea SanctionsSanctionsU.N. Sanctions

By jonprc (Flickr: north korean ship) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

We reported last July on Panama’s seizure of the North Korean vessel Chong Chon Gang sailing from Cuba to North Korea and carrying, among other things, disassembled Soviet-era MIG jets and missiles hidden in 200,000 bags of brown sugar. Cuba claimed it was sending these items to North Korea “for repair.” As was reported at the time, the North Korean crew tried to fend off Panamanian boarders with sticks while the vessel’s captain initially claimed to have a heart attack and subsequently attempted suicide.  The entire ordeal resulted in the rare Cuba-Panama-North Korea diplomatic tiff.  While we explained in July the UN sanctions against North Korea that were implicated, recent developments also provide telling aspects of U.S. sanctions policy against Cuba.

The United States has remained notably close-lipped and little has developed in almost four months since the seizure until this last week.  On Wednesday, the Panamanian foreign minister was in Washington and was thanked by Secretary Kerry for Panama’s “very important interdiction of a North Korean ship with illicit cargo.”  According to Panamanian media, the Panamanian foreign minister announced on Friday that Panama has granted visas to a North Korean delegation to come to Panama this week to claim the Chong Chon Gang and most of its crew.   The captain, two senior officers, the disassembled weaponry and the brown sugar will not be released.  Finally, Vice President Biden arrived yesterday in Panama to tour expansion sites of the Canal.

The upshot of the entire incident is that the United States got the best promotion of sanctions against Cuba it could have asked for.  Panama was the one who exposed Cuba engaging in concealed international arms trafficking with North Korea.  The United States, as a result, was not thrust into a position to defend an embargo unsupported by most of  its allies, but rather could let Cuba be scolded by another Latin American country.

The United States, of course, most likely played critical behind-the-scenes intelligence and direction related to the seizure, and the recent diplomatic visits between the two countries are reminders that Panama relies heavily on U.S. support and, therefore, would be willing to comply with the occasional Soviet-era arms seizure at the behest of the United States.  Perhaps not coincidentally, the North Korean crew have been detained at Fort Sherman, a former U.S. military base on the Atlantic side of the Canal.

While Iran takes current front page news on U.S. sanctions policy, the activities onboard the Chong Chon Gang is a singular example of why the United States is not inclined to ease sanctions meaningfully against Cuba soon and will use this episode as support that sanctions should remain as is.

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Nork Arms Seized in Panama Canal

Posted by at 9:49 pm on July 17, 2013
Category: Arms ExportNorth Korea SanctionsU.N. Sanctions

Kim Jong Un Official Photo Source: Korean Central News Agency [fair use]You have no doubt read about an inspection of a North Korean vessel by Panama in the Panama Canal that revealed that the ship was transporting missile parts and systems. Apparently among the items seized by Panama were a SNR-75 “Fan Song” fire control radar for the SA-2 family of surface-to-air missiles. These were built by the Soviets in the mid-1950s and are used to guide missiles to their targets. The Cubans assert that they own these items and are sending them to North Korea for repair.

Given that the items were hidden under bags of sugar and that they ship’s captain tried to commit suicide in the course of the Panamanian search, the question as to whether this shipment violates U.N. sanctions seems to be mostly academic. Security Council Resolution 1718, in sections 8(a) and (b), prohibits the “transfer to” the DPRK, or export from the DPRK, the listed arms and materiel. Of course, if these items are indeed going to the Norks for repair and return, this may not be a transfer of the items to the DPRK and they will not yet have been exported by the DPRK. However, section 8(c) prohibits the transfer of services to or from the DPRK related to the use of the listed arms and materiel, which seems to be the provision most arguably implicated by the shipment at issue.

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