Cuban shipment headed to North Korea 'without a doubt' violated a UN arms embargo, says Panama

The Chong Chon Gang ship was sailing from Cuba through the Panama Canal when it was seized in July

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The Independent Online

The Panamanian government has said a cargo of weapons they seized aboard a ship from Cuba "without a doubt" violated a UN arms embargo against North Korea.

An investigation team was dispatched by the UN Security council to investigate the weapons, after they were discovered by sniffer dogs last month.

The investigators' report has yet to be made public, but the Panamanian public security ministry made a statement citing a draft report.

The Chong Chon Gang ship was sailing from Cuba through the Panama Canal when it was seized in July, following intelligence that it may have been carrying drugs.

The list of cargo said it was carrying 10,000 tons of sugar, but Cuban military equipment was found beneath the sacks.

After the seizure, Cuban officials said the cargo included 240 metric tonnes of obsolete planes and missiles they were sending to North Korea to be repaired and returned. There was no mention of munitions or explosives in the government statement.

The 35 members of the ship's North Korean crew were arrested upon the cargo's discovery, on suspicion of carrying undeclared weapons. Two of the country's diplomats are assisting them.

North Korea said it had a "legitimate contract" to overhaul "ageing weapons" to be sent back to Cuba.

The reclusive state is barred by the UN from buying or selling arms, missiles or components, but for years UN and independent arms monitors have discovered North Korean weaponry headed to Iran, Syria and a host of nations in Africa and Asia.

The UN says North Korea has also repeatedly tried to import banned arms. Analysts say it maintains a thriving sideline in repairing ageing Warsaw Pact gear, often in exchange for badly-needed commodities.