Panama seizes N. Korean ship carrying suspect weapons

PANAMA CITY, Panama, July 16 (UPI) -- Panama said a captain tried to kill himself and crew members resisted arrest after inspectors found suspected weapons system components on a North Korean ship.

Inspectors at the Panama Canal Monday found hidden cargo packed with a shipment of brown sugar on board the Belize-flagged MV Light, headed for North Korea from Cuba, CNN reported.


U.N. sanctions prohibit North Korea from importing or exporting most weapons because it is developing nuclear weapons, CNN said.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli tweeted a photograph of what appeared to be two green octagonal tubes with a cone at one end. Panamanian Minister of Security Jose Raul Mulino said authorities had not identified the suspected weapons or their place of origin as of Tuesday.

Defense and security consultant IHS Jane's said in a statement the equipment depicted in the photos appears to be "fire control" radar equipment for surface-to-air missiles, CNN said.

"One possibility is that Cuba could be sending the system to North Korea for an upgrade," Jane's said. "In this case, it would likely be returned to Cuba and the cargo of sugar could be a payment for the services."


Jane's said the equipment may also have been intended to "augment Pyongyang's existing air defense network," which it said was "based on obsolete weapons, missiles and radars."

Martinelli said the captain tried to commit suicide after suffering a heart attack and 35 crew members resisted arrest in a confrontation that turned violent.

Mulino said Panama must remove 255,000 sacks of brown sugar by hand because ship's crew members cut cables on cranes used to unload cargo.

Cuban officials have not responded to requests for comment, CNN said.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., called the development "serious and alarming" and said it should serve as a "wake-up call" for the Obama administration as it considers normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba, CNN reported.

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