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Panama calls in U.N. to inspect North Korean arms ship

QuestCinq.com/News

Panama said on Wednesday it had called in the United Nations to investigate the case of a North Korean ship caught smuggling arms from Cuba, adding more pressure on Pyongyang for possible breach of U.N. sanctions.

Panamanian Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino said his government had asked the United Nations to advise on the case and that Panama aimed to hand over the ship, Chong Chon Gang, and its contents to United Nations representatives.

Panama seized the ship last week after a tense standoff with the crew in which the captain tried to slit his own throat. It discovered suspected arms on board which Cuba said were weapons being sent back to North Korea for repair.

There is an eight-member panel of experts appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to monitor the U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea.

The experts are mandated to “gather, examine and analyze information from States, relevant United Nations bodies and other interested parties” on allegations of sanctions violations and report back to the 15-member Security Council.

Earlier on Wednesday, Britain’s U.N. Ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said the ship appeared to have violated a U.N. arms embargo on North Korea.

According to Cuba, the weapons on the ship included two anti-aircraft missile batteries, nine disassembled rockets, two MiG-21 fighter jets, and 15 MiG-21 engines, all Soviet-era military weaponry built in the middle of the last century.

Mulino noted Panamanian officials had discovered two more containers with suspected arms, adding to two already found.

He said Panama had not spoken to North Korea about the matter. “We have no relationship with them,” he said.

Mulino said the 35 crew members of the ship, whom Panama detained after discovering the weapons, were to be charged with crimes against Panama’s internal security.

Source:Reuters

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