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U.N. inspectors set to look over North Korean shipment in Panama

By Castalia Pascual, for CNN
August 13, 2013 -- Updated 1800 GMT (0200 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.N. personnel will inspect the military equipment carried by a North Korean ship
  • The ship was intercepted in Panama last month
  • Authorities found missiles, two MiG-21 jets and more

(CNN) -- A month after Panamanian authorities intercepted a North Korean ship with military equipment hidden on board, U.N. inspectors were ready to take a look.

The inspectors, who arrived at Panama's Manzanillo port early Tuesday, came at the request of the Panamanian government.

The ship set sail from Cuba, and the Cubans have admitted owning the military equipment it carries, claiming it was being sent to North Korea to be repaired and returned.

Because it is pursuing nuclear weapons, North Korea is banned by the United Nations from importing and exporting most weapons.

See what was found on North Korean ship
Cuba: Arms going to N. Korea for repair

For this reason, the Panamanian government invited the inspectors and said it would let the United Nations decide how to respond to the incident.

Panama's Security Ministry said that the U.N. inspectors would not make any public comments before or during their inspection. A report will be issued at a later date.

The inspection is expected to conclude next Friday.

The ship was intercepted on July 15, and authorities met with resistance from the crew. The crew members even cut cables to cranes that slowed the process of searching the ship. The ship's captain attempted to commit suicide during the search.

The equipment, manufactured in the mid-20th century, included two anti-aircraft missile systems, nine missiles in parts and spares, two MiG-21 jets and 15 motors for this type of airplane, the Cuban Foreign Ministry said.

The captain and 35 North Korean crew members are charged with illegal possession of weapons and international arms trafficking, Panamanian officials said.

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