The Chinese government has responded to Colombia’s arrest of a Chinese captain for carrying tons of undeclared ammunition bound for Cuba on his ship. According to military spokeswoman Hua Chunying, the ship was conducting “completely normal military trade cooperation” with Cuba.
The ship, the Dan Dan Xia, stopped in Cartagena, Colombia, on the way to Havana to deliver piping for a petroleum company–cargo that was properly documented. During a routine inspection for illicit drug shipments, however, Colombian officials found an array of weapons and ammunition for which the captain had no explanation. (Some reports, such as news from the Colombian newspaper El Heraldo, claimed that Colombian officials had “intelligence information” that prompted the search and that it was not routine.)
Colombian officials told the media the ship was carrying “round 100 tonnes of powder, 2.6 million detonators, 99 projectiles and around 3,000 cannon shells.” The ship’s paperwork claimed it was carrying “grain products.”
“It is completely normal military trade cooperation. At present, China is communicating with Colombia on this matter,” Reuters reports Hua as explaining. The Associated Press adds that Hua insisted, “To my knowledge, the cargo ship carried general military items China exported to Cuba, and there were no sensitive items.”
The outlet notes also that photographs of the arms on the ship show they originated at Norinco, a Chinese defense manufacturer, which indicates state officials were aware of the construction of these weapons.
Chinese state media CCTV reports that Captain Wu Hong remains in custody in Colombia, and appeared before a judge on Tuesday, though the investigation is ongoing. Both he and the Chinese government insist that China has not broken any international obligations through this shipment, though the Chinese government has provided no reason for shipping the arms without proper documentation or why the cargo on the ship was marked as grain.
Reuters notes that China and Cuba maintain close diplomatic ties, second only to the Asian nation’s relationship with socialist Venezuela. The shipments were found during a pivotal time for Cuba, as its diplomats insist during talks with American officials that the Cuban government will not become more open to dissent or trade with the United States, while demanding benefits like their removal from America’s State Sponsor of Terror list and sovereignty over America’s Guantánamo Bay, the only territory free of Castroite oppression on the island.
As Cuba demands to be removed from America’s list of state sponsors of terror, it continues to house the leadership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the wealthiest non-jihadist terror group in the world. Colombia has sent a fleet of generals to Havana this week for peace talks with the terrorist leaders, which has prompted families of the victims of the FARC to call for extradition of these terrorists and justice for their fallen. Many complain that they have been frozen out of negotiations with the terrorist group. It is estimated that more than 220,000 people have died as a result of FARC terrorist acts since the group’s inception, not including more than 25,000 people who have gone missing. Attempting to flee from FARC violence, more than five million people have been internally displaced within Colombia, according to statistics from Colombia’s National Center for Historical Memory.