The Panamanian government announced on Monday that it had interdicted a North Korean cargo vessel for transporting what looked to be ballistic missile components after setting sail from nearby Cuba, the Associated Press reported.
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli in an interview with RPC radio said the North Korean-flagged ship had been sailing for the East Asian country. The vessel was ferrying undocumented arms that looked to include unconventional weapons and missiles in a breach of U.N. Security Council rules that bar Pyongyang from all weapons commerce.
"The world needs to sit up and take note: You cannot go around shipping undeclared weapons of war through the Panama Canal," Martinelli was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.
Panama is a member of the U.S.-led multinational Proliferation Security Initiative, whose members agree to work together to block the illegal transport of weapons of mass destruction by sea, air or land.
"We had suspected this ship, which was coming from Cuba and headed to North Korea, might have drugs aboard so it was brought into port for search and inspection," the president said.
Earlier reports said the vessel was searched on Friday.
"When we started to unload the shipment of sugar we located containers that we believe to be sophisticated missile equipment, and that is not allowed," he said.
"The captain has tried to commit suicide, and the crew rioted" during the process of the interdiction, Martinelli said.