The Panamanian authorities have seized a North Korean-flagged ship travelling from Cuba through the Panama Canal that was carrying “undeclared military cargo,” and Panama’s President said late Monday that the cargo was presumably “sophisticated missile equipment.”
The President, Ricardo Martinelli, said in a radio interview that the illegal cargo was found in two containers hidden behind a large shipment of sugar. In a Twitter posting he included a photo of what looked like a green tubular object in a container.
The United Nations has imposed broad sanctions on North Korea that seek to curtail its ability to export and import weaponry, particularly missile components and technology.
In his remarks on Radio Panama, President Martinelli said the ship was headed to North Korea and that the captain of the ship tried to commit suicide during the incident. He said the ship would undergo a thorough inspection to look for weapons being transported illegally through the Panama Canal. The 35 North Koreans on board were being detained after they resisted efforts to take the ship to the Caribbean port of Manzanillo.
“We’re going to keep unloading the ship and figure out exactly what was inside,” he said. “You cannot go around shipping undeclared weapons of war through the Panama Canal.”
President Martinelli’s remarks about the cargo possibly containing missile components have not been independently verified.