A US destroyer forced back a North Korean freighter ship that was possibly on its way through the South China Sea to Burma (Myanmar) with military cargo. It is not clear if the cargo was nuclear or conventional weaponry.
Seoul, South Korea
For the second time in two years, a US Navy destroyer has shadowed a North Korean vessel presumed to be carrying military cargo and forced it to return to North Korea. The White House views the episode as a significant success in the effort to enforce sanctions against North Korea.
US officials here confirmed on Monday that the North Korean vessel – flying under the flag of the tiny central American nation of Belize – reversed course after the destroyer McCampbell sighted it in late May off China’s southeastern coast. The McCampbell followed the vessel as it moved south toward the Straits of Malacca, according to this account, before the North Koreans turn back.
“It’s definitely a win,” says Gary Samore, the top White House nuclear adviser. Mr. Samore cites the success in getting the North Korean vessel to turn around as a demonstration of the effectiveness of UN Security Council resolutions passed after North Korea’s nuclear test of October 2006 and May 2009 calling for enforcement of sanctions against North Korean military exports.
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Although the specific nature of the cargo was not confirmed, the vessel was believed to be carrying components for missiles for Burma (Myanmar), which faces an arms embargo from many Western countries. Intelligence analysts say the same vessel is linked to previous shipments to Burma, with whom North Korea is suspected of cooperating in a program for enriching uranium for nuclear warheads. In addition, North Korea is believed to have shipped conventional arms, including rifles and machine guns, to Burma.