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Thursday
Jul182013

North Korea-Panama Standoff Goes On

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- North Korea says it's time for Panama to let its people go, not to mention a cargo freighter carrying sugar and what the Panamanians claim is a cache of military weapons.

Monday's seizure turned dramatic when the ship's captain reportedly suffered a heart attack and then allegedly tried to commit suicide.  The captain and 35 North Korean crew members could be charged with threatening Panama's national security.

While Panamanian authorities await further instructions from the United Nations, which is sending an official to assess the situation, North Korean's Foreign Ministry issued a statement Wednesday through the state-run KCNA demanding the ship and crew be allowed to continue their voyage home.

Pyongyang insisted, "This cargo is nothing but aging weapons which are to be sent back to Cuba after overhauling them according to a legitimate contract."

However, Panama is not relenting in what has the makings of a major international incident.

North Korea is banned by the U.N. from importing or exporting virtually all weapons due to its illicit nuclear program.  There are suspicions that Pyongyang is supplying Havana with weapons in what some say would be a return to the days of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio