Mig-21s Found in North Korean Ship Intercepted in Panama

By Dialogo
July 23, 2013

On July 22, Panamanian authorities found two Mig-21 aircraft hidden in the North Korean ship intercepted on July 10 with undeclared Cuban weapons onboard, authorities reported, adding that the Red Cross will visit the 35 crew members detained.

“So far, two Mig-21 aircraft and anti-aircraft devices, as well as other equipment, have been found,” Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli told the press. “Apparently these aircraft were in use because they had fuel,” added the head of state, who was in Manzanillo port in Colón (north of the country) to be part of the searches.

The aircraft were in containers hidden under tons of sugar cargo on board the North Korean freighter “Chong Chon Gang,” intercepted by the Panamanian Police on July 10, when it intended to cross the Panama Canal from the Atlantic.

According to Havana, the vessel had departed Cuba with “obsolete weaponry” onboard, on its way to North Korea for repairs.

On July 12, Cuba acknowledged the ownership of the war material and listed missile systems, spare rocket parts, aircraft engines, and two Mig-21 fighters.

The ship and its 35-member crew detained in Fort Sherman, an old U.S. Military base by the canal, have been brought to Panama’s prosecutor’s office.

The sailors, who could face charges of up to six years of imprisonment for “crimes against collective security,” will be visited by Red Cross personnel, authorities reported.

“They [the crew] are being permanently assisted by doctors. They receive food, medical and psychological assistance,” State Prosecutor Ana Belfon said.