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NKorea to Panama: Free detained freighter and crew

Wednesday - 7/17/2013, 8:58pm  ET

In this Wednesday, June 26, 2013 photo, North Korea's military delegation members led by chief of the General Staff of the people's army, Kim Kyok Sik , center, pose for photos before leaving for Cuba at the Pyongyang Airport. A top North Korean general, Kim Kyok Sik, visited Cuba and met with his island counterparts. The Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma said he was also received by President Raul Castro, and the two had an "exchange about the historical ties that unite the two nations and the common will to continue strengthening them." A North Korean ship carrying weapons system parts buried under sacks of sugar was seized as it tried to cross the Panama Canal on its way from Cuba to its home country, which is under a United Nations arms embargo, Panamanian officials said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- North Korea's Foreign Ministry says Panama should release the crew detained in the apprehension of a freighter carrying missile components because no drugs or illegal cargo were aboard.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, who was not named by the official Korean Central News Agency, says "The Panamanian investigation authorities rashly attacked and detained the captain and crewmen of the ship on the plea of 'drug investigation' and searched its cargo but did not discover any drug."

Decades-old missile components were found on board.

North Korea said Wednesday "This cargo is nothing but aging weapons which (North Korea) are to send back to Cuba after overhauling them according to a legitimate contract."

North Korea says "The Panamanian authorities should take a step to let the apprehended crewmen and ship leave without delay."


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