A North Korean ship that a US Navy destroyer is tracking off China as part of efforts to enforce UN sanctions is suspected of carrying missiles or related parts, a news report said on Sunday.

North Korea dispute nears our neighbourhood
Published: 21/06/2009 at 10:16 PM
Seoul (AFP) – A North Korean ship that a US Navy destroyer is tracking off China as part of efforts to enforce UN sanctions is suspected of carrying missiles or related parts, a news report said on Sunday.

South Korea’s YTN television news channel, citing an unnamed intelligence source, said the ship was heading for Burma via Singapore. The 2,000-tonne Kang Nam 1 left the North Korean western port of Nampo on June 17, with Burma set as its final destination, YTN said.

“The United States suspects that the Kang Nam 1 may carry missiles or related parts and that the ship is likely to call at Singapore on her route,” the source said, according to YTN.

The ship is one of five – Kang Nams 1 to 5 – used by Pyongyang for arms trade in the past, YTN said. Officials at Seoul’s National Intelligence Service were not immediately available for comment on the YTN report. A US defence official said on Friday the USS John S. McCain was shadowing the Kang Nam 1, the first vessel to be monitored under a UN resolution imposed a week ago that bans shipments of arms and nuclear or missile technology to and from North Korea.

Another defence official said the ship was one of a group of vessels previously linked to illicit missile-related cargo. It was unclear what cargo the ship was carrying but ‘once a suspect, always a suspect’, he said.

US officials have yet to indicate if or when they might ask to search the vessel under the UN Security Council resolution.

The North Koreans are expected to reject any such request. But at some point, the ship will likely need to stop for refuelling along the Chinese coast or elsewhere, US officials said. At that point, the country where the ship enters port is obliged under the UN resolution to search the vessel if there are grounds for suspicion.

Pentagon officials declined to comment on a television report saying the Navy destroyer was heading to intercept the North Korean vessel. The officials stressed that the UN sanctions do not authorise military force and that Washington was pursuing a diplomatic strategy.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high since Pyongyang carried out its second nuclear test last month. After the underground test and subsequent missile launches, the Security Council adopted the UN resolution last week that includes financial sanctions designed to choke off revenue to the regime.

The New York Times reported:

The Kang Nam is the first North Korean vessel to be tracked under the resolution the UN Security Council unanimously adopted on June 12 to punish North Korea for its May 25 nuclear test.

The resolution bans North Korean trafficking in a wide range of not only nuclear but also conventional weaponry.

But it only “calls upon” countries to search North Korean ships, with their consent, if there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect that banned cargo is aboard. If the crew does not accept inspection on high seas, North Korea is required to direct the vessel to a port for inspection by the local authorities there.

Singapore, said it would act “appropriately” if the vessel docks at its ports. But there was doubt that Burma would cooperate with such an inspection.
http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/146740/north-korea-dispute-nears-our-neighbourhood

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