Panamanian investigators who were inspecting a ship carrying weapons from Cuba to North Korea also discovered two MiG-21 fighter jets, aside from the missile radar systems on board. Fortunately there were no explosives detected aboard the Chon Chon Gang, as was initially feared by officials.
The two supersonic planes, which were originally produced in the 1950s by the Soviet Union, were on the ship together with two missile radar systems, as well as cables and electrical equipment. Javier Caraballo, Panama’s top anti-drugs prosecutor, said that the planes smelled like they have been recently used. The ship was stopped by Panamian officials on July 15 and their inspection revealed the weapons underneath thousands of sacks of sugar. Cuba declared to the Panama cargo officials that the sugar was a donation for the people of North Korea. Later on, when the weapons were discovered, they said that they were sending a bunch of “obsolete” arms for repair to North Korea.
Panama is now asking the United Nations to investigate the ship and its contents as it might be in violation of an arms embargo against North Korea due to its nuclear and ballistic missiles program. Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said they shouldn’t have expected to take the undeclared weapons through the Panama Canal while hiding underneath other cargo. He said he has not spoken with any Cuban official since they first asked the Panamanian government to let the ship go. North Korea has also asked Panama to release the ship and the 35 members of the crew who were arrested and charged with attempting to smuggle undeclared weapons through the canal.
[ via Reuters ]