Seemingly a scene straight out of “Lord of War” or a similar arms dealer glorifying movie, the Singaporean government is filing charges against Chinpo Shipping Company for allegedly helping smuggle missiles and jets from Cuba into North Korea.
The arms shipment is part of a United Nations investigation. Again seeming to be a scene out of a movie, the illegal weapons were discovered during an inspection last year hidden under a shipment of sugar. Officials initially stopped the ship, the Chong Chon Gang, because they suspected that it was smuggling drugs. Apparently, inspectors got more than they bargained for.
Instead of drugs, the inspectors found two MiG21s, older Soviet era war planes, but still dangerous enough, especially in the hands of a rogue state like North Korea. Inspectors also found live missiles and other pieces of military equipment. In total, an astounding 25 different containers of weapons and equipment were seized.
Chinpo a Singaporean firm
Generally speaking, Singapore prefers to stay out of the international spotlight, at least when it comes to military conflicts, and certainly when it comes to scandals. Chinpo is a Singaporean shipping firm and has been implicated for helping to move the stolen goods. A Ms. Tan Hui Tin, who is the daughter of the company’s chairman, has also been charged with withholding evidence.
The complex web of transfers in the case is making it difficult for investigators to unravel the whole case. Apparently, Chinpo transferred $72,000 dollars to a South African firm based in Panama. It appears that this firm then tried to ship the goods. It appears, however, that Chinpo was acting as a front company for a North Korean firm, and this firm in turn was a front company for the North Korean government.
Singaporean government looks to uphold international obligations
Generally speaking, the Singaporean government takes a neutral stance on most issues. For example, while many South East Asian states are locked into arguments with China, Singapore has largely stayed out of the conflict. The Singaporean government has done little more than call for clarity. Of course, given that the country is no more than a city-state home to roughly five million people.
Still, it appears that the Singaporean government isn’t willing to sit this one out. Singapore’s foreign minister said in a statement that Singapore has an “obligation” to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Under current sanctions, North Korea is banned from important any weapons except small arms. As such, it would appear the seized shipment was clearly in violation of international law.