DPRK demands Panama free seized ship

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A long, green missile-shaped object is seen inside the North Korean flagged ship "Chong Chon Gang" docked at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City July 16, 2013.[China Daily] 

Democratic People's Republic of Korea Thursday urged Panama authorities to realease its ship and crewman without delay.

Panama seized the DPRK cargo ship and arrested its crew on Monday  after finding undeclared missile-shaped objects onboard, a potential violation of UN sanctions against DPRK over its nuclear and missile programmes.

The ship was sailing under a legitimate deal and the initial suspicion of drugs on board was "a fiction." DPRK's Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

"This cargo is nothing but aging weapons which are to send back to Cuba after overhauling them according to a legitimate contract," the spokesman said.

"The Panamanian investigation authorities rashly attacked and detained the captain and crewmen of the ship on the plea of 'drug investigation' and searched its cargo but did not discover any drug," the spokesman commented.

Cuban Foreign Ministry Tuesday said the cargo ship, sailing from a Cuban port to the DPRK, was loaded with 240 tons of "obsolete defensive weaponry" and 10,000 tons of sugar.

It also carried 240 metric tons of obsolete defensive weapons including two anti-aircraft missile complexes Volga and Pechora, nine missiles in parts and spares, two Mig-21 fighters and 15 Mig-21 fighter motors, which were sent to DPRK for repair and would be shipped back to Cuba, according to the statement.

The weapons, all manufactured in the mid-twentieth century, were required "to maintain our defensive capacity to preserve national sovereignty," the statement said.

"The Republic of Cuba reiterates its firm and unwavering commitment with peace, disarmament, including nuclear disarmament, and respect for International Law," it said.

Panama said on Wednesday that it had asked the United Nations to determine the legality of the cargo.

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