Connect to share and comment

North Korean weapons ship: Enter the UN. And bees. Lots of bees.

Panama has called in United Nations inspectors to help determine whether a North Korean cargo ship carrying weapons from Cuba was in violation of international sanctions.

Chong Chon Gang North Korea Cuba Panama weaponsEnlarge
View of the North Korean vessel Chong Chon Gang at Manzanillo harbour in Colon, 90 km from Panama City on July 16, 2013. Panama called for UN investigators to inspect a shipment of suspected weapons parts aboard the North Korean-flagged ship as it tried to enter the Panama Canal last week. (Rodrigo ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)

Panama has called on the United Nations Security Council to investigate a North Korean ship caught smuggling arms from Cuba.

Panama stopped the ship last week and seized its cargo, which was found to contain 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 Wednesday.

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.

More from GlobalPost: Why it's no surprise that North Korea was caught in Panama

"Clearly, the facts still need to be established... on the face of it, the transfer of these weapons to North Korea would be a violation of the sanctions regime on North Korea and therefore there are questions that need to be answered," the United Kingdom's ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, told reporters.

The North Korean government has urged Panama to release the ship and its crew, who remain in custody.

However, Mulino said, "The cargo is illegal because it was not declared. Anything that is not logged, even if it is obsolete, is contraband."

So far 33 of the 35-man crew have been charged with trafficking undeclared arms, according to Panamanian prosecutors, charges for which they could face up to six years in jail.

All of the sailors have refused to speak to investigators, leading anti-drugs prosecutor Javier Caraballo said Wednesday. They remain in custody and are reportedly "in perfect health," according to Caraballo.

Meanwhile some 350 police and border guards continue to search the docked Chong Chon Gang. Two more containers of military equipment have been found in addition to the two crates first discovered hidden under containers of brown sugar.

According to reports, the sticky cargo, left exposed to the air, has attracted a huge swarm of bees to the ship.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Kyodo and Agencia EFE contributed to this report.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/north-korea/130718/un-chong-chon-gang-north-korea-weapons