Panama detains North Korean ship suspected of carrying missile equipment

Panama seized a North Korean ship on Monday, claiming that the cargo contained banned contraband including hidden missile equipment.

Panama officials seized the North Korean ship as it was headed into the Panama Canal. Officials say missile equipment was being held in shipments of brown sugar from Cuba. The alleged missile equipment would go against U.N. sanctions that are levied against North Korea's nuclear program, Reuters reports.

"We found containers which presumably contain sophisticated missile equipment," Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli said, according to Reuters. "That is not allowed. The Panama canal is a canal of peace, not war."

After Panama officials stormed the boat, a standoff ensued in which the captain of the North Korean ship attempted to slit his own throat. The captain is currently in a hospital in stable condition and all members of the ship's crew were arrested, Reuters reports.

The contraband equipment has been identified from images as SNR-75 'Fan Song' fire control radar for the SA-2 family of surface-to-air missiles. This radar is built by Russian weapons manufacturer Almaz-Antey and saw its first use in the Vietnam War.

"Shipments of arms or related materiel to and from (North) Korea would violate Security Council resolutions, three of them as a matter of fact," U.S. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said, according to Reuters. "Obviously this shipment, if it's confirmed to have what we suspect, would be of interest to the (U.N. /North Korea) sanctions committee."