PANAMA CITY - Panama said on Wednesday it had called on the UN Security Council to investigate a North Korean ship caught smuggling arms from Cuba, piling more pressure on Pyongyang over a possible breach of UN sanctions.
Panama stopped the ship last week and seized its cargo after a stand-off with the North Korean crew in which the captain tried to slit his own throat. Authorities discovered missile equipment, MiG fighter jets and other arms aboard that Cuba said were "obsolete" Soviet-era weapons being sent to North Korea for repair.
"It's going to be transferred to the UN Security Council. They will decide what to do," Panamanian Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino said in Panama City.
Five UN investigators, including one from the Security Council, are expected to arrive around the beginning of August once the ship, the Chong Chon Gang, has been unloaded, Panamanian government officials said.
The North Korean government urged Panama to release the ship and its crew, who were detained and are in the process of being charged for failing to declare the arms on board.
"This cargo is nothing but aging weapons, which are to send back to Cuba after overhauling them according to a legitimate contract," a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the official KCNA news agency.