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Tracked N. Korean Vessel Abruptly Heads Home

Posted July. 02, 2009 08:11,   


The North Korean ship Kang Nam 1, which is suspected of carrying materials for use in producing weapons of mass destruction, has abruptly shifted course and is heading back home, the Associated Press said yesterday.

Quoting a U.S, government source, the report said the vessel abruptly changed direction and headed northward Monday, while navigating waters around 400 kilometers south of Hong Kong. The source said it was uncertain whether the Kang Nam 1 returned to North Korea or changed course for another destination, and that the U.S. took no action to prompt the change.

The vessel changed direction soon after Myanmar, which had been known as its destination, informed Pyongyang that the ship will undergo an inspection when it enters a Myanmar port.

The U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Asia said Tuesday that a Myanmar director-general in charge of education, research and foreign language summoned North Korean Ambassador to Yangon Kim Sok Chol last week. Kim was informed that Myanmar authorities would directly inspect the Kang Nam 1 if it docked in Myanmar.

The ship has been traced by the Aegis destroyer USS John S. McCain after the U.N. Security Council adopted June 12 a resolution urging all U.N. member countries to inspect North Korean vessels suspected of carrying materials for use in weapons of mass destruction.

Washington also froze the assets of an Iranian company that had assisted North Korean trading companies and Pyongyang in connection with the North’s weapons program, including nuclear weapons and missiles. The company also received a transaction ban.

This was the first sanction imposed by the U.S. independently from U.N. Security Council Resolution 1875.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement Tuesday, “We freeze U.S. assets held by NCG, the trading company based in Pyongyang that has been reportedly engaged in purchases of equipment, including aluminum pipes, that can be used for enrichment of uranium, since the late 1990s in accordance with Executive Order No. 13382, and put a ban on its transaction with U.S. companies and individuals.”

The U.S. Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Electronics, a company based on Kish Island in southern Iran, due to suspicion that it assisted the North’s missile program.

The move is seen as showing Washington’s strong intent to directly raise issue with Pyongyang’s uranium enrichment program and sales of nuclear weapons material to Iran and Syria, things which the previous Bush administration did not raise the issue.