Panama Insists U.N. Handling of Shipping Case

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Aug. 13, 2013, 8:02 a.m.

Panama will not settle the case of a North Korean cargo ship that was found car­ry­ing So­viet era weapons via a bi­lat­er­al meet­ing between the two na­tions, and in­stead will con­tin­ue to in­sist that the United Na­tions handle it, the Miami Her­ald re­por­ted.

It was an­nounced last week that a U.N. in­spec­tion team would travel to Panama to in­vest­ig­ate the Chong Chon Gang freight­er that was sail­ing through the Panama Canal en route to North Korea from Cuba when the weapons were dis­covered.

Cuban of­fi­cials have said they were send­ing aging air­craft, mis­sile-launch equip­ment and oth­er mil­it­ary gear to North Korea for main­ten­ance ser­vices and that the items were to have been re­turned to Havana later on. However, the equip­ment was hid­den among bags of sug­ar and may have vi­ol­ated a mil­it­ary ex­port em­bargo against Py­ongy­ang be­cause of its il­li­cit nuc­le­ar arms pro­gram.

A verbal mes­sage sent by North Korea’s em­bassy in Havana on Fri­day said that the cargo ship did not in­tend to threaten the se­cur­ity of the Panama Canal and ex­pressed the North’s de­sire to re­solve the case “dip­lo­mat­ic­ally” and with “ami­able co­oper­a­tion,” the news­pa­per re­por­ted, cit­ing an un­named Panamani­an gov­ern­ment source.

“As long as the case is in the hands of the (Panamani­an) Se­cur­ity Min­istry and there’s no fi­nal re­port re­port from the United Na­tions, there is no dip­lo­mat­ic solu­tion,” an an­onym­ous of­fi­cial told El Nuevo Her­ald.

The dip­lo­mat­ic note also asked that two North Korean dip­lo­mats be al­lowed in­to Panama so that they could ad­vise crew­men of the North Korean freight­er, ac­cord­ing to the Miami Her­ald.

On Tues­day, ad­di­tion­al mis­sile-launch­ing equip­ment was found in the last un­opened con­tain­er on the freight­er, the Chosun Ilbo re­por­ted. Panamani­an of­fi­cials told the Korean news ser­vice that the search of the ship had con­cluded. 

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