Harf added that, nevertheless, U.S. officials will want to talk with Havana soon about the shipment and that if it is indeed proven to be a violation of the U.N. sanctions, it would be incredibly worrisome.
U.N. Security Council experts, who will officially identify the war material and determine whether it violated U.N. sanctions on North Korea, are not expected to arrive in Panama until Aug. 5.
Adding to the speculation surrounding the shipment, former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe tweeted Thursday that he had received information that the Cuban war materiel was on its way to Ecuador, but gave no further information. He later told Colombian journalists that his source had given him correct information in the past.
Caraballo, meanwhile, told reporters that the freighters 35 North Korean crewmen, being held in a detention facility, have refused to speak to investigators. They have been charged with endangering Panamas security when they resisted the search of their ship.
He also played down reports that the ships captain tried to kill himself and suffered a heart attack at the start of the search over the weekend. The captain went into a bathroom and came out with a small cut on his neck, Caraballo said.
North Korea has demanded the return of the ship and its cargo, saying there was nothing illegal about the shipment. and alleging that Panama authorities used violence against the crew. All ships must declare their cargo, and those carrying weapons through the Panama Canal are required to separately report war materiel.
Panama announced Wednesday that it would allow two North Korean diplomats based in Havana to come here to follow the case in person. But it later withdrew the permits, apparently angered by Pyongyangs complaint of violence against the crew.