NEW YORK, July 19 (RIA Novosti) – UN experts will soon travel to Panama to investigate a recent incident with a North Korean ship seized by Panamanian authorities on suspicions of illegal arms-trafficking, a US official at the UN said.
A group of experts from the UN Security Council committee that monitors sanctions against North Korea is expected to determine whether the freighter Chong Chon Gang violated a UN arms embargo imposed on Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile ambitions.
“As far as I am concerned, the group will soon travel to Panama to start the investigation,” Alternate Representative of the United States for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations, Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis told reporters on Thursday.
The ship was seized by Panamanian authorities last week as it headed into the Panama Canal. Its crew was arrested after an inspection revealed that it carried containers with weaponry covered by sacks of brown sugar from Cuba.
Panama has charged the ship’s captain and 35 crew members with "attempts against Panama's security" and "illegally transporting undeclared military equipment," according to a statement by local prosecutors.
Panama requested the UN assistance with the investigation on Wednesday.
Both Pyongyang and Havana had admitted that the ship carried obsolete weapons to be repaired in North Korea and returned to Cuba. The sugar was intended as the payment from Cuba to North Korea for repair services.
The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the vessel had two anti-aircraft missile complexes, nine missile parts and spares, two Mig-21 Bis and 15 motors for those planes, all manufactured in the mid-20th century.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry demanded Wednesday that Panama release the vessel and its crew.
Panamanian authorities reacted to North Korea’s statement by recalling visas for two North Korean diplomats who were to arrive to the country for further discussions of the incident.