China defends military items found on ship detained by Colombia

Updated: 2015-03-05 09:59


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Chinese Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that a Chinese cargo ship carrying legitimate military items was stopped by Colombian authorities on its way to Cuba for alleged illegal arms trafficking.

Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the items were part of "normal military trade" between China and Cuba and did not violate Chinese law or any of the country's international obligations.

"To my knowledge, the cargo ship was carrying general military items China to Cuba, and there were no sensitive goods," Hua said.

"China is now communicating with Colombia on the matter and will offer necessary help to the Chinese nationals aboard the cargo ship to guarantee their legitimate rights," Hua added.

Reuters report earlier said that the Ship Da Dan Xia, operated by China Ocean Shipping Group Co (COSCO), was headed for Cuba when it was stopped last Saturday in the northern port of Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast, after the materials were inspected.

The report also claimed that the COSCO ship was detained because it failed to report the military items it was carrying, including 100 tons of gunpowder, shell casings and detonators that are used to make explosives.

The cargo was listed in the records of the 28,451 deadweight-ton ship as grain products, it added.

The report also said photographs from a local prosecutor's office showed wooden cases inside a shipping container with labels stating China's biggest arms maker China North Industries Corporation, known as NORINCO, as the supplier.

The recipient was stated as importer Tecnoimport in the Cuban capital Havana. The Cuban company could not immediately be reached for comment, said Reuters.

The report also quoted a Norinco spokesman who said the materials the ship was carrying were for the production of bullets and had been sold legally.

"Some media reports of what the ship was carrying do not accord with the reality of the situation," the spokesman said. "We have always been a responsible international company."

The captain of the Hong Kong-flagged vessel had been arrested, a Colombian attorney general's office was quoted as saying in the report.