Hong Kong (AFP) Oct 24, 2006
Officials denied Tuesday that a North Korean cargo vessel being detained in Hong Kong was tracked down by a US naval warship and stopped on suspicion of carrying military parts. Reports said the Kang Nam 1, which was ordered to remain in Hong Kong after docking on Sunday, had been tailed by the USS Gary, a guided-missile frigate that docked on Saturday.
It was feared the 2,035-tonne general cargo ship had been carrying military supplies in breach of UN sanctions imposed on North Korea after its October 9 atom bomb test, the reports in Hong Kong and South Korea said.
But the head of the government's marine administration said the Kang Nam 1 had coincidentally docked while the US warship was making a routine port call.
"There's nothing sinister in this at all, it's all simply routine practice," Roger Tupper, the director of the Marine Department, told AFP.
"We had no tip off about military equipment. We simply selected the Kang Nam 1 on the same grounds that we would for any other vessel. It was all routine."
Tupper also denied that officials had stopped the ship under the terms of the UN sanctions. He said it was not unusual for North Korean vessels to stop in Hong Kong.
A spokesman for the United States consulate said it had no information on the ship and said the USS Gary was in Hong Kong on a port call, not to tail the North Korean ship.
"I can tell you that the USS Gary was not chasing any North Korean ships," spokesman Dale Kreisher told AFP.
The South Korean Yonhap news agency reported that the ship's crew members had said they would soon set sail.
"(We) came to pick up cargo. We will depart in two days after uploading the cargo," an unnamed sailor on the ship told Yonhap.
Tupper added the ship was being detained because it was in breach of a number of local safety regulations.
Reports in the local media and Lloyd's List, the London-based shipping directory, said officials had found 25 faults with safety and other equipment aboard the 22-crew vessel.
Lloyd's cited the acting assistant director at the Marine Department, Lee Kai-leung, as saying that 12 safety concerns were "detainable deficiencies mainly on life-saving and fire fighting appliances as well as navigational equipment including out-dated and obsolete charts".
UN sanctions were imposed on Pyongyang to prevent Kim Jong-il's hardline Stalinist regime from transferring or importing nuclear technology and to end the trade in contraband, such as drugs and illicit cigarettes, that is believed to help fund the North's nuclear programme.
The sanctions are part of a huge global diplomatic effort since the test to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.
A report in the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's English-language daily, said the ship had arrived from Shanghai and was due to return home to Nampo, near Pyongyang, via Taiwan.
They said the captain, who would not give his name, had told reporters he was unaware of Pyongyang's first ever atom bomb test, or of subsequent UN sanctions.
China said it had no knowledge of the reports.
"I do not have information on that, but China will earnestly implement and abide by (UN) resolution 1718," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular press conference, after being asked about the detention of the ship.
"If there is any violation of the resolution found in Chinese territories, we will take necessary measures to fulfill our obligations."
earlier related report
Chosun Ilbo, South Korea's largest circulation daily, said the Chinese police confirmed the September 11 arrests of the duo, only known by their surnames Chang and Chung, at a Beijing hotel.
The two were trying to sell about 970 grams (34 ounces) of enriched uranium which they said had been obtained "from an unidentified man from a remote area" in November 2004, it said.
"The two were ethnic Koreans and an initial investigation showed the enriched uranium was presumed to be Russian-made," a Beijing police source was quoted by Chosun as saying.
The paper said other sources did not rule out the possibility that the uranium could have come from North Korea, given the large number of ethnic Koreans in China engaging in illegal trade with North Koreans.
"I have personally met someone in a Chinese border town who asked me to find him a buyer, saying 'I have enriched uranium smuggled from North Korea,'" an unnamed source told Chosun.
It was not known how enriched the uranium was. Only highly enriched uranium can be used to make a nuclear weapon.
Some 15 to 17 kilograms of enriched uranium would be needed to produce a nuclear bomb, Chosun said.
The United States accused North Korea in 2002 of runnning a clandestine nuclear program based on enriched uranium. The North said earlier this month it had tested a nuclear weapon for the first time.
Source: Agence France-Presse
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at SpaceWar.com
No Plans For Second Nuke Test, Kim Tells China
Beijing (AFP) Oct 24, 2006
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il told China he has no plans for a second atom bomb test but increased international pressure could trigger more action, the Chinese foreign ministry said Tuesday. A ministry spokesman also said that, contrary to some reports, Kim did not apologise in a meeting with a Chinese presidential envoy in Pyongyang last week for his nation's first ever nuclear weapons test on October 9.
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