Cuba on Tuesday claimed as its own the arms found on board a ship intercepted by Panama, saying the missile parts were to be repaired in North Korea and returned.
In a statement read on state television, Havana said the "obsolete" weaponry included anti-aircraft missile arrays, nine disassembled missiles and other parts, indicating it all had been headed to North Korea.
"The agreements subscribed by Cuba in this field are supported by the need to maintain our defensive capacity in order to preserve national sovereignty," the government said in an English-language statement.
But the shipment could violate harsh UN arms sanctions on North Korea intended to halt its nuclear program, and will likely worsen long-sour relations between Havana and Washington.
Panama called Tuesday for UN inspections of the weapons parts, which were found aboard a North Korean-flagged ship as it tried to enter the Panama Canal last week.
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli tweeted a photo of the suspected weapons cache, which experts have identified as an aging Soviet-built radar control system for surface-to-air missiles.
The contraband munitions were hidden under thousands of bags of sugar aboard the North Korean-flagged Chong Chon Gang.