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Crew of N. Korean Ship Detained in Panama Receive Regular Red Cross Visits


FILE - North Korean-flagged cargo ship Chong Chon Gang sits in Sherman Bay near Colon City, Panama.

FILE - North Korean-flagged cargo ship Chong Chon Gang sits in Sherman Bay near Colon City, Panama.

The captain and two other officers of a North Korean freighter detained in Panama are receiving regular visits by officials of international organizations while waiting for trial.

In an e-mail sent to VOA's Korean Service, Prosecutor Roberto Moreno of the Panamanian Attorney General’s Office said the three members of the Chong Chon Gang crew are being treated in the best way possible at the La Joya Penitentiary.

In addition to visits by officials from the United Nations and the Red Cross, Moreno said the sailors also have access to their lawyers.

However, he declined to comment on whether he has received Pyongyang’s response regarding the scheduled trial for the three men.

Most of the crew has been released. But North Korea has demanded the release of the remaining three, saying the commandeered arms shipment was part of a legitimate deal.

The captain and 34 other crew members were detained last July when the ship was caught smuggling Soviet-era arms from Cuba, including surface-to-air missile and fighter jet parts, in direct violation of U.N. resolutions.

Earlier this month, a U.N. panel said North Korea is using sophisticated means to avoid international sanctions imposed by the Security Council.

The report said Pyongyang's embassies in Cuba and Singapore are suspected of facilitating banned arms trades.

U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea prohibit a range of weapons imports from and exports to North Korea, such as combat aircraft and missile systems.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean and Spanish services.
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    Jee Abbey Lee

    Jee Abbey Lee is a veteran broadcast journalist with more than 10 years of experience in TV, radio, and the web. She serves as Voice of America's social media correspondent and is an expert of millennial lifestyle. 

    Lee received her graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to joining VOA, she worked at the Seoul bureau of CNN Travel and served as the chief Bank of Korea correspondent for Arirang TV. 

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