SEOUL – Sugar and language barriers are seriously hampering the ongoing search for more North Korea-bound weapons on a seized cargo ship in Panama, local daily La Prensa said this weekend.
Although the 35-member crew of the seized Chong Chon Gang were reportedly in good health following an international Red Cross inspection, a lack of Korean-language speakers has made interviewing the crew almost impossible.
“The prosecution has had difficulty making inquiries statements to the 35 crew members detained since none of them speak Spanish, few understand English, and the Public Ministry has no Korean language translators,” La Prensa quoted Panamanian first drug prosecutor Javier Caraballo as saying.
The crew are being held in Fort Sherman; home to an abandoned U.S. military base in Panama that the jungle is slowly reclaiming.
A total of nine shipping containers were found on the ship. Seven have been opened, and Panamanian authorities are awaiting permission from prosecutors to open an eighth that currently sits on the harbor in Colon.
Thousands of bags of brown sugar are still concealing a ninth shipping container that has not yet ben opened. Much of the sugar has melted since being exposed, attracting swarms of bees to the ship that the Ministry of Health is therefore now having to fumigate on a daily basis.
Authorities are struggling to find space to relocate the sugar, Public Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino told La Prensa, further slowing the search.
Two MiG fighter jets, anti-aircraft systems, fire control radars and electrical generators have all been found amongst the illicit cargo. The equipment, all of which is ageing, is being sent to North Korea for repairs, Cuban authorities said.
Headline image: Ricardo Martinelli, via Twitter
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