- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2014

North Korea paid a fine of $693,333 for trying to sneak Cuban arms through the Panama Canal without declaring them.

The attempted shipment could very well be a violation of U.N. sanctions, one official said in Defense News. The original fine was in the million dollar range, but North Korean authorities were able to obtain a reduction by admitting in a statement that they had endangered the waterway with false shipment information, officials said in the report.

“They just paid the fine in cash,” said canal administrator Jorge Quijano, in Defense News. “So [their] ship is free to set sail.”

The ship’s going to head back to Cuba, Mr. Quijano said.

The fine marks the end of a months-long investigation about the ship’s cargo. The freighter Chong Chon Gang was originally stopped on July 10 on a suspicion of transporting drugs, Defense News reported.

Upon investigation, Panama authorities found 25 containers of Cuban military items — including two MiG-21 aircraft from the Soviet era, and several air defense systems. The authorities also found a number of missiles, as well as command and control vehicles, Defense News said. The items were concealed by 200,000 bags of sugar.

North Korea and Cuba both said the weapons were part of a legal and contracted refurbishment project — but neither could explain why they were hidden.

Panamanian authorities, meanwhile, petitioned the United Nations to task a force to inspect the shipment and rule whether it was a violation of the arms embargo in place against North Korea.