Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Suspected North Korean Ship Returns Home

Must keep an eye on shippings coming from other countries
by land, air, sea and strict control around the borders as well

The Irrawaddy News

A South Korean official reported on Tuesday that the North Korean vessel, Kang Nam I, which the U.S. Navy had been tracking because it was suspected of carrying illicit cargo, had probably arrived back home, according to a report by the Associated Press on Tuesday.

The U.S. Navy reported on June 19 that it was tracking the cargo vessel after it left port. The ship, which was believed destined for Burma, suddenly turned back on June 28 without delivering its cargo.

The Kang Nam I is believed to have entered the port of Nampo on North Korea's western coast late Monday, said a South Korean Defense Ministry official, who spoke of condition of anonymity, citing department policy. He said South Korea was trying to obtain confirmation of the vessel's return.

The chief of U.S. Naval operations, Adm. Gary Roughead, told reporters in Seoul on Monday that the ship's pending return showed that efforts are working to enforce UN sanctions.

"I think that's an indication of the way the international community came together," Roughead said of the ship's reversal.

He called the monitoring of the Kang Nam I "a very effective way" of stopping proliferation, and said the Navy will continue to conduct operations that support the effort to sanction North Korea.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council issued a condemnation of North Korea's recent missile tests after a closed meeting in New York on Monday.

Accordingly to an Agence France Presse report on Tuesday, Japan's cabinet is expected to send a bill to parliament that allows the coast guard to inspect North Korean ships for nuclear and missile-related materials, in line with a UN resolution.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso’s cabinet hopes parliament will pass the bill by the end of this month, officials said, but the bill’s passage is not certain due to opposition to the unpopular prime minister.

The bill would authorize the coast guard to inspect ships both on the high seas and in Japanese waters. Inspectors would first be required to get approval from the captain of any ship targeted and from its country of origin, however.

Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force, which is banned from offensive military action, could be called on to back up the coast guard if a ship targeted for inspection appears heavily armed, government officials said.

A UN Security Council resolution over North Korea's recent nuclear and missile tests passed last month calls on member states to stop and search vessels suspected of carrying banned weapons for the communist state.

Neither the UN resolution nor the Japanese bill authorizes the use of force.

Along with the United States, Japan pushed hard for tough sanctions after North Korea launched a long-range rocket on April 5, and conducted its second underground atomic test on May 25, followed by a series of missile launches.

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