Panama City – Officials in Panama announced the seizure of a North Korean-flagged ship carrying what appeared to be ballistic missiles and other arms that had set sail from Cuba.
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli told RPC radio on Monday that the ship had been headed for North Korea.
There were no immediate details on the quantity of arms aboard.
Martinelli said the undeclared military cargo appeared to include missiles and non-conventional arms. He said the ship was violating United Nations resolutions against arms trafficking.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican Congresswoman from Miami, said the capture reaffirms the dangerous threats both North Korea and Cuba pose to the U.S.
“This is a serious and alarming incident that reminds us that the North Korean regime continues to pursue its nuclear and ballistic programs, and will stop at nothing in that pursuit,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “It also illustrates that the Castro tyranny continues to aid and abet America’s enemies and continues to pose a national security threat to the United States as long as the Castro apparatchik holds control over the island.”
Martinelli said on his Twitter account that the arms were "hidden in containers underneath the cargo of sugar."
He offered no details but posted a photo of what appeared to be a green tubular object sitting inside a cargo container or the ship's hold.
Martinelli told RPC the 35 North Koreans on the boat resisted police efforts to take the ship to the Caribbean port of Manzanillo. The crew was later taken into custody.
Martinelli said the captain had a heart attack and also tried to commit suicide during the operation.
He said authorities had been tipped off some days ago that the ship might be carrying drugs.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.