Panama's President called for international help after officials seized Cuban weapons system parts on a North Korean ship traveling through the Panama Canal.
Cuba admitted Wednesday to supplying old Soviet-style weapons seized last week aboard a North Korean ship in the Panama Canal, but claimed they were only sending the weapons to North Korea for "repairs." The United Nations prohibits the supply of all weapons to North Korea. The Cuban foreign ministry said that the ship’s main cargo was 10,000 tons of sugar. The vessel, the Chong Chon Gang, left Russia in April and entered the canal in June, with Cuba as its stated destination, before disappearing off the radar. It resurfaced on July 11 before being searched a day later.
The Cuban foreign ministry said the ship was carrying obsolete Soviet-era arms from Cuba for repair in North Korea.
The ship was seized by Panama last week after "undeclared military cargo" was found hidden in a shipment of sugar.
United Nations sanctions prohibit the supply of arms to North Korea in the dispute over its nuclear programme.
A Cuban foreign ministry statement said Cuba reaffirmed its commitment to "peace, disarmament, including nuclear disarmament, and respect for international law".
It said the vessel was carrying 240 tonnes of obsolete defensive weapons - two anti-aircraft missile complexes, nine missiles in parts and spares, two MiG-21bis fighter planes and 15 MiG engines.
When the seizure of the vessel was announced on Tuesday, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said it contained suspected "sophisticated missile equipment".
Martinelli further stated that the 35-member crew had resisted the search and the captain had tried to kill himself.