HAVANA (AFP) – Fidel Castro credited North Korea Wednesday with supplying Cuba with free weapons in the 1980s after the Soviet Union said it could no longer defend the island against a US invasion.
Castro's reminiscence in an article published Wednesday came as UN experts were scrutinizing a shipment of Cuban arms to North Korea to determine if they violated a UN ban.
Castro has dismissed the discovery of the undeclared arms aboard a North Korean freighter transiting the Panama Canal as an attempt to smear Cuba.
In an article marking his 87th birthday, Castro did not mention the case but praised North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung for coming to Cuba's aid near the end of the Cold War.
Castro said then Soviet leader Yuri Andropov had told him that Cuba would have to defend itself it were invaded by the United States.
"He told us that if were attacked by the United States we would have to fight alone," he said.
"We asked him if they could supply us with weapons free of charge as they had in the past. He responded that they would.
"We then communicated to him: 'Don't worry. Send us the arms and we will take care of the invaders ourselves."
Castro said North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung, "a veteran and unimpeachable combatant, sent us 100,000 AK rifles and (ammunition) without charging a cent," he said.
Andropov, a former KGB chief, was the Soviet leader from 1982 until his death 15 months later in 1984 as the Soviet Union entered into a period of crisis that ended with its collapse in 1989.
Kim Il-Sung died in 1994. His grandson now rules the Stalinist state.
Castro stepped down as Cuba's president in 2006, handing over the reins to his younger brother Raul after becoming ill.
"I was far from imagining that my life would extend for another seven years," he said.