Panama confiscates North Korean ship and finds missile parts

A North Korean ship with missile parts was found at the Panama Canal.
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Photo Credit: John Pavelka

A North Korean ship was seized by Panama on July 10.

Officials at the Panama Canal stopped the ship for drugs, but they found something startling, upon further investigation.

After a struggle with the vessel’s crew, Panamanian authorities found missiles on the North Korean ship.

According to USA Today, the Chong Chon Gang is a ship that has been on authorities’ radar for quite some time. Hugh Griffiths, an arms trafficking expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute told USA Today that the North Korean ship because it had been stopped two previous times. Once, when Somalian pirates attacked the ship in 2009, and once in Ukraine in 2010. The ship was carrying drugs and small arms ammunition on both occasions.

According to BBC News, the parts for a missile were not discovered until Monday night thanks to the resistance from the Chong Chon Gang crew. CNN reported that the crew cut the cables on the cranes that were being used to unload the cargo. Reuters reported that the captain of the ship tried to commit suicide. The members of the crew were arrested for their lack of cooperation Monday after a violent standoff.

Panamanian authorities found the missile parts hidden behind some brown sugar bags from Cuba. It has not been determined yet where the missile came from.

It appears North Korea violated the sanctions against them. According to BBC News, the United Nations banned North Korea banned North Korea from exporting weapons, and importing weapons that are not small arms. Panama president Ricardo Martinelli told local radio stations, “We found containers which presumably contained sophisticated missile equipment. That is not allowed. The Panama Canal is a canal of peace, not war,” Reuters reported.

The U.S. State Department is grateful for Panama’s confiscation of the Chong Chon Gang. Authorities are still investigating the North Korean ship.

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