U.S. supports Panama's detention of alleged arms-bearing North Korean ship

The U.S. is willing to help Panamanian officials after a North Korean-flagged ship with a history of drug smuggling was detained in the Panama Canal, the State Department said on Tuesday.

Patrick Ventrell, the director of the State Department's press office, made the statement on Tuesday during a daily press briefing. Ventrell responded to questions about the ship, known as the MV Chong Chon Gang, which may have been carrying arms. He said the U.S. is still gathering information about where the ship was headed and whether or not arms were on board.

Ventrell made it clear that if the ship was carrying arms, it would represent a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions for any countries involved.

"In terms of U.N. Security Council resolutions, if indeed there were a shipment of arms on board of this vessel, any shipment of arms or related materiel would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions 1718, 1874, and 2094," Ventrell said. "An inventory (will be) taken, there's a report made if there's relevant sanctionable materiel on board to the U.N. Sanctions Committee. So we have a process. When there are flagrant violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions, there's a process for reporting that through the U.N. Security Council sanctions mechanisms."

When asked what kind of cooperation the U.S. would be willing to offer the Panamanians, Ventrell said the U.S. would be in further contact with Panama to learn the facts of the matter.

"We've had broad cooperation with Panama," Ventrell said. "Just to remind people that they're one of 102 countries that are part of our Proliferation Security Initiative. So they've made a public commitment to stop transfers of weapons of mass destruction, related material, and their delivery systems to and from state and non-state actors of proliferation concern. So you know that Panama is a close partner of ours; we've had a lot of cooperation with them. Again, we want to get to the bottom of the facts in this case before making further pronouncements. But we are happy to be in further contact with the Panamanians."