Most crewmen of the North Korean ship Chongchongang, who were detained by Panamanian authorities after their ship was found to carry weapons parts from Cuba, will be repatriated to the North next week, the Associated Press said Tuesday.
The Panamanian government said it will send 32 of the 35 crewmen to the North next week, holding only the captain and the political commissar, who have been charged with transporting illegal weapons.
The crew are expected to return to the North on the ship.
In July the Chongchongang, which was travelling from Cuba to North Korea, was caught on its way through the Panama Canal carrying radar systems and MiG fighter jet engines hidden in crates of raw sugar.
Under questioning, the North Korean crew claimed ignorance of the weapons. The Cuban government said it sent the shipment of weapons and parts to the North for repairs.
But there are suspicions that the weapons were part of an arms deal between Havana and Pyongyang.
UN inspectors said in a preliminary report that the shipment violated UN sanctions against arms transfer to Pyongyang.
Meanwhile, Panama is keeping the weapons and will discuss with the UN how to dispose of them.