Cuba's President Raul Castro

Ismael Francisco, Associated Press

Military equipment lays in containers aboard a North Korean-flagged ship at the Manzanillo International container terminal on the coast of Colon City, Panama, Tuesday, July 16, 2013.

Arnulfo Franco, Associated Press

Answers needed on Cuba's missile shipment to North Korea

  • Article by: Kansas City Star Editorial
  • July 23, 2013 - 11:36 AM

Given Cuba’s long-running economic crisis, you could imagine that some entrepreneurial lieutenant of the revolutionary government got a gold star for inventing a possible new revenue stream.

It certainly sounds like a clever move to clean out the Cold War closet and dump some outmoded radar systems, Russian jets and missile parts on a willing taker. After all, Cuba’s Museum of the Revolution can hold only so many military souvenirs.

Were the parts going to North Korea for repair, as Cuba has confessed in the days since a North Korean ship was halted at the Panama Canal? Or is Kim Jong Un in the midst of refreshing his toy chest?

And burying the cargo under bags of sugar - that’s the kind of low-tech comedy we’ve come to expect from the Cubans.

So, was Cuba paying North Korea in advance with sugar for the fix-it work or was it selling a fellow underfed nation one of the only exports of substance it has to offer, along with the military hardware?

Weapons analysts have said that even if the restored equipment made its way back to Cuba, it would be ineffective to useless. The Russians made these things a half century ago. The Cubans can hardly keep Russia’s leftover Lada cars running.

Seriously folks, this episode, which reportedly follows a similar Cuba-to-North Korea shipping event in 2012, comes right at a time when the U.S. and Cuba seemed ready for constructive engagement.

Is this another Cuban Missile Crisis, the edge-of-war standoff of 1962 that should’ve remained a distant memory?

That’s doubtful. But what is certain is that Cuba owes the U.S. and the world a full explanation. The United Nations will take up the matter, and the U.S. government, thankfully, is not reacting in haste.

We’ve been led to expect better from Cuban President Raul Castro, who has seemed more open to repairing relations with the U.S. than was his older brother and predecessor, Fidel. But making nice with big boy Kim puts Castro on a par with - say it ain’t so - Dennis Rodman.

That’s a comedy and a tragedy all rolled up into one.

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