By Barbara Starr
Panama has formally asked the United States for technical help to inspect Cuban weapons found on board a North Korean freighter it seized.
"The government of Panama has requested our assistance, and we intend to provide it," Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said.
"Generally speaking, the types of technical assistance we could provide include things like identifying the material on board, as well as providing personnel who are familiar with these types of inspections," she said.
The Panamanians asked for imaging equipment and technicians to fully examine and determine what is on board, according to a U.S. official.
The official declined to be identified because the person is not authorized to speak publicly.
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has publicly said he wants international inspectors to survey the ship's cargo.
A second official told CNN an initial assessment found that Cuba was sending aging weapons - including a radar, aircraft and missile parts - to North Korea for repair and upgrade as Havana has claimed.
The U.S. assessment also found that Cuba may be trying to further its arms relationship with North Korea due to Russian disinterest in performing the upgrade work.