Panama’s Martinelli wants to ‘repatriate’ crew of N. Korea ship

By Dialogo
July 29, 2013

PANAMA CITY, Panama – Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said on July 26 he wanted “some kind of agreement” to allow 35 detained crew members from a seized North Korean vessel that was stopped for carrying undeclared Cuban weapons to head home.
The crew members of the North Korea-flagged Chong Chon Gang face arms-trafficking charges after missile and other weapons parts and two fighter planes were seized.
They face a maximum of six years in prison.
“I think eventually and diplomatically, one should seek some kind of agreement to repatriate them to North Korea,” Martinelli told the Telemetro channel.
Panama and North Korea do not share diplomatic ties.
Authorities on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal boarded the vessel on July 10 because they suspected it might be moving illegal drugs.
Instead, they found undeclared missile equipment and planes.
Cuba claims the shipment on the Chong Chon Gang consists of “obsolete” weapons it was sending to North Korea to be refurbished.
Panamanian officials are awaiting the Aug. 5 arrival of a United Nations Security Council team it has asked to evaluate the weapons and determine whether North Korea or Cuba has violated United Nations sanctions.
[AFP (Panama), 27/07/2013; Telemetro (Panama), 27/07/2013]