Even before the completion of the U.N. investigation of the Chong Chon Gang, this incident is already being politicized. Anti-Castro pundits have called for President Barack Obama to suspend the migration talks and used the event as justification for Cuba’s continued presence on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list, as well as for North Korea’s reinstatement to the list after the Bush Administration removed it in 2008.  Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtenin (R-FL), former Chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, claims that the episode demonstrates how the “Castro tyranny continues to aid and abet America’s enemies and continues to pose a national security threat to the United States as long as the Castro apparatchik holds power.”  It is inappropriate for senior policymakers like Ros-Lehtinen to make unverified assumptions about Havana’s intentions and role in the incident without sufficient proof of Cuba’s complicity.Unsurprisingly, ill-reputed Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has attempted to use the event as an opportunity to position Panama as a moral authority within the international community, even though he is renowned for running one of the most corrupt regimes in Latin America. He has taken to Twitter to discuss the incident, posted a photograph of the alleged weapons on this social media platform, and told Radio Panamá that “the Panama Canal is a canal of peace, not of war.”  The governments of Cuba, North Korea, and the United States have not yet issued statements about the incident as of the publication of this article. It is likely that Cuba will attempt to downplay the affair in light of the scheduled migration talks with the United States.While the immediately available facts may, at first glance, seem to be incriminating, nothing in this case has been indisputably proven at this point. The investigation by the U.N. team is ongoing and, until definitive evidence is presented against Cuba, it is not fair to condemn the Cuban government or demand a change in U.S.-Cuban relations. Moreover, it seems unlikely that the Cuban government would have authorized an illegal arms transfer to internationally sanctioned North Korea at such a delicate and important stage in the bilateral negotiations between Havana and Washington. However, if Cuba is found to be complicit in this affair, there could be profoundly negative ramifications for any potential rapprochement with the United States. For now, the international community can (and should) wait for more definitive information about this highly sensitive issue before jumping to conclusions that may amount to nothing more than false speculation.Cuban Foreign Ministry: DPRK Cargo Ship Carries Cuban “Obsolete” Weapons for Repair That to be Returned
The weapons, all built in the middle of the last century, were required “to maintain our defensive capacity to preserve national sovereignty,” the statement said, adding that they would be returned to Cuba after repair.“Cuba maintains its commitment to peace including nuclear disarmament and international law,” it said.Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said on Monday that a DPRK-flagged cargo ship suspected of hiding missile equipment in a shipment of sugar from Cuba, was seized.