Cuba: N. Korean Ship's Weapons Are Ours—and Old

'When this stuff was new, Castro was plotting revolutions'

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 17, 2013 1:45 AM CDT | Updated Jul 17, 2013 7:56 AM CDT

(Newser) – North Korea—antique weapons repairer? The Cuban government says it owns the military equipment found on a North Korean ship seized by Panamanian authorities, and the "obsolete defensive weapons" found hidden in a cargo of sugar were to be repaired in the country before being returned to Cuba, the BBC reports. Cuba says the cargo included two anti-aircraft missile complexes, nine missiles in parts and spares, two MiG 21-Bis fighter planes, and 15 MiG engines, all made in the mid-20th century.

The weapons are so old that authorities are puzzled by the captain and crew's violent reaction to the search. "We’re talking old," an official briefed on the situation tells the New York Times. "When this stuff was new, Castro was plotting revolutions." Defense consultant IHS Jane’s Intelligence, however, believes some of the equipment could have aided North Korea's air defense network, which is based on equipment that would be considered obsolete elsewhere. The captain—who tried to commit suicide by slitting his throat during the search—and 35 crew members, all North Korean citizens, are in custody; it's not clear whether they will be prosecuted or sent back to their homeland.

Panamanian workers stand atop sacks of sugar inside a container of a North Korean-flagged ship at the Manzanillo International container terminal.
Panamanian workers stand atop sacks of sugar inside a container of a North Korean-flagged ship at the Manzanillo International container terminal.   (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
Panamanian presidential security detail walks on the deck aboard a North Korean-flagged ship at the Manzanillo International container terminal.
Panamanian presidential security detail walks on the deck aboard a North Korean-flagged ship at the Manzanillo International container terminal.   (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
A Panamanian police officer stands guard in an empty corridor aboard a North Korean-flagged ship at the Manzanillo International container terminal.
A Panamanian police officer stands guard in an empty corridor aboard a North Korean-flagged ship at the Manzanillo International container terminal.   (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
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