You have no doubt read about an inspection of a North Korean vessel by Panama in the Panama Canal that revealed that the ship was transporting missile parts and systems. Apparently among the items seized by Panama were a SNR-75 “Fan Song” fire control radar for the SA-2 family of surface-to-air missiles. These were built by the Soviets in the mid-1950s and are used to guide missiles to their targets. The Cubans assert that they own these items and are sending them to North Korea for repair.

Given that the items were hidden under bags of sugar and that they ship’s captain tried to commit suicide in the course of the Panamanian search, the question as to whether this shipment violates U.N. sanctions seems to be mostly academic. Security Council Resolution 1718, in sections 8(a) and (b), prohibits the “transfer to” the DPRK, or export from the DPRK, the listed arms and materiel. Of course, if these items are indeed going to the Norks for repair and return, this may not be a transfer of the items to the DPRK and they will not yet have been exported by the DPRK. However, section 8(c) prohibits the transfer of services to or from the DPRK related to the use of the listed arms and materiel, which seems to be the provision most arguably implicated by the shipment at issue.