Monday, June 13, 2011

US Blocks Ship Suspected of Carrying North Korean Arms

Via VOA News -

A senior U.S. official says the Navy intercepted a ship suspected of carrying banned weapons technology from North Korea to Burma and forced it to return home. U.S. officials say they received support from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including Burma, in putting pressure on Pyongyang to halt the ship.

The USS McCampbell, a Navy destroyer, intercepted the M/V Light in international waters on May 26, as it made its way from North Korea to Burma. The ship carries the Belize flag, and authorities in Belize had given permission for it to be boarded.

But the North Korean crew refused to be boarded, and after a few days of military confrontation and diplomatic pressure, turned toward home.

Gary Samore is the White House special assistant on arms control and weapons of mass destruction. He said in Seoul Monday that the ship came under suspicion because it has been involved in weapons exports to Burma and the Middle East in the past.


He says the United States met with its partners in the Association of Southeast Asia Nations, and "made the case" that the ship might be violating U.N. sanctions against North Korea and there were grounds for it to be inspected if it visited ASEAN ports. He said the ASEAN nations indicated their willingness to comply with the U.N. resolutions.

"The Burmese said in the meeting I was in that they would respect and honor their obligations under [U.N. Security Council Resolution] 1874. They never committed to doing inspections, but they said they would honor 1874," said Samore.

Security Council Resolution 1874 and an earlier one, 1718, bar North Korea from engaging in the arms trade. 1874 was imposed in 2009 after North Korea conducted its second nuclear-weapons test.


Washington also has been concerned with Burma's growing military contacts with North Korea. The two countries in recent years have resumed ties, which were severed after North Korean agents planted a bomb in Rangoon in 1983 that killed several visiting South Korean Cabinet members.

There have been numerous reports in the past two years that Burma's military aims to obtain sophisticated weaponry, including nuclear bombs. There has been no official confirmation of those reports.

The United States, like many developed nations, has imposed sanctions on Burma's leadership for human rights abuses.

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