The photo posted by the president shows a green tube that appears to be a horizontal antenna for the SNR-75 "Fan Song" radar, which is used to guide missiles fired by the SA-2 air-defense system found in former Warsaw Pact and Soviet-allied nations, said Neil Ashdown, an analyst for IHS Jane's Intelligence.
Jane's isn't sure where the system in the photo was manufactured but the radar would be useful to North Korea as part of a air defense network, Ashdown said.
One container buried under sugar sacks contained radar equipment that appears to be designed for use with air-to-air or surface-to-air missiles, said Belsio Gonzalez, director of Panama's National Aeronautics and Ocean Administration. He said Panamanian authorities expected to find the missiles themselves in containers that must still be searched.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed four rounds of increasingly tougher sanctions against North Korea since its first nuclear test on Oct. 9, 2006.
Under current sanctions, all U.N. member states are prohibited from directly or indirectly supplying, selling or transferring all arms, missiles or missile systems and the equipment and technology to make them to North Korea, with the exception of small arms and light weapons.
The most recent resolution, approved in March after Pyongyang's latest nuclear test, authorizes all countries to inspect cargo in or transiting through their territory that originated in North Korea or is destined for North Korea, "If the state concerned has credible information that provides reasonable grounds to believe the cargo contains items the supply, sale, transfer or export of which is prohibited" by Security Council resolutions.
The governments of North Korea and Cuba made no public comment on the case.