Monday, June 13, 2011
US intercepted N. Korea ship over arms fears
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A US Navy destroyer intercepted a North Korean cargo ship in the South China Sea suspected of carrying missiles or other weapons and made it turn back, officials said Monday.
The cargo ship, the M/V Light, may have been headed to Myanmar with military contraband, Gary Samore, special assistant to President Barack Obama on weapons of mass destruction, told the South Korean Yonhap news agency.
The New York Times, which first reported the incident, said the ship was intercepted south of the Chinese city of Shanghai by a US destroyer on May 26.
The North Korean ship was registered in Belize, whose government gave the United States permission to board and inspect the ship, Samore and Pentagon officials said.
"We talked directly to the North Koreans. We talked directly to all the Southeast Asian countries including Myanmar, urging them to inspect the ship if it called into their port," Samore was quoted as saying.
"The US Navy also contacted the North Korean ship as it was sailing, to ask them where they were going and what cargo they were carrying."
The USS McCampbell, a guided-missile destroyer, then requested permission to board the M/V Light and was refused by the ship's master, who said it was a North Korean ship, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan told reporters.
The US destroyer continued to track the vessel which eventually headed back to North Korea on May 29 "in order to avoid inspection," Lapan said.
"We believe that those signs point to the fact that it was carrying an illicit cargo in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions," he said.