Channel NewsAsia

N Korea pays fine in Panama over Cuba arms case

North Korea paid a fine for trying to ship undeclared Cuban arms through the Panama Canal, possibly in violation of United Nations sanctions, authorities said.

PANAMA CITY: North Korea paid a fine on Saturday for trying to ship undeclared Cuban arms through the Panama Canal, possibly in violation of United Nations (UN) sanctions, authorities said.

After a reduction of the original million-dollar penalty, Pyongyang paid $693,333.10, said canal administrator Jorge Quijano.

"They just paid the fine in cash," he added. "So the ship is free to set sail."

The North Korean freighter Chong Chon Gang was stopped on July 10 on suspicion of carrying drugs as it tried to enter the busy canal shortcut linking the Caribbean and Pacific.

Panamanian authorities' search uncovered 25 containers of Cuban military hardware, including two Soviet-era MiG-21 aircraft, air defence systems, missiles and command and control vehicles.

Both Havana and Pyongyang said the weapons aboard the freighter were obsolete Cuban arms being shipped to North Korea for refurbishment under a legitimate contract.

More than 200,000 sacks of sugar concealed the weapons.

Panama's government has asked the United Nations to send a mission to determine whether the shipment violated the UN arms embargo against North Korea.

Last month, Panamanian authorities released 32 of the 35 North Koreans detained since July.

The remaining three North Koreans - the vessel's captain, first officer and political secretary - face trial on arms trafficking charges.

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna