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Panama May Hit North Korea with $1 Million Fine for Illicit Arms Transport

A police officer shows reporters a Russian-made jet engine removed last month from the North Korean-flagged freighter Chong Chon Gang. Panama Canal officials could assess as much as $1 million in penalties against Pyongyang for attempting to smuggle military gear through the waterway (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco). A police officer shows reporters a Russian-made jet engine removed last month from the North Korean-flagged freighter Chong Chon Gang. Panama Canal officials could assess as much as $1 million in penalties against Pyongyang for attempting to smuggle military gear through the waterway (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco).

The North Korean cargo ship that attempted to illegally move Cuban weapons through the Panama Canal last month could be fined up to $1 million by the Panama Canal authority, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Chong Chon Gang freighter was interdicted on July 10. An inspection of the ship's hold has found amid sacks of sugar 25 containers filled with weaponry including missile-firing components, old Soviet jets and air-defense equipment. Cuba has claimed ownership of the aging arms and said they were being transported to North Korea for overhauling and then repatriation to the Caribbean island nation.

Onerous U.N. Security Council sanctions forbid all nations from engaging in any weapons commerce with Pyongyang, which is being punished for its continued development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

The smuggling incident "is a flagrant violation of safe passage through the Panama Canal and we have little tolerance for this kind of activity," canal manager Jorge Quijano said. 

"It is going to be sanctioned," said Quijano, adding that officials are weighing how much the penalty should be. "Very serious" breaches of Panama Canal policies can be penalized with a maximum fine of $1 million, according to the administrator.

"The case of the North Korean freighter is very serious," he said in an interview for AFP's Thursday report.

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