PANAMA CITY - Cuba announced Tuesday that weapons found on a North Korean ship close to the Panama Canal were "obsolete" Soviet-era arms, which the communist island had sent to Pyongyang for repair.
The declaration came a day after Panama said it had found military equipment, which it believed to be missiles, after impounding the ship and conducting a drugs search.
Panama earlier Tuesday urged UN inspectors to scrutinize the cargo, which could constitute a violation of the strict arms sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear programme.
However Cuba, one of North Korea's few allies, claimed the shipment as its own, with the foreign ministry listing 240 metric tons of "obsolete defensive weapons," including two anti-aircraft missile systems as being on board.
There were also "nine missiles in parts and spares" various Mig-21 aircraft parts and 15 plane motors, "all of it manufactured in the mid-20th century" and "to be repaired and returned to Cuba."
"The agreements subscribed by Cuba in this field are supported by the need to maintain our defensive capacity in order to preserve national sovereignty," the ministry said in an English-language statement.
Panama President Ricardo Martinelli tweeted a photo of the haul, which experts earlier Tuesday identified as an ageing Soviet-built radar control system for surface-to-air missiles.
Martinelli's government said the munitions were hidden in a shipment of 220,000 pounds (100,000 kilograms) of bagged sugar aboard the North Korean-flagged Chong Chon Gang.