North Korean Ship Under US Scrutiny Changes Course

A North Korean ship under scrutiny for more than a week by the U.S. Navy has changed course and was heading back the way it came, U.S. officials said, as Pyongyang warned Wednesday it will take military action if anyone attempts to search its vessels.

The Kang Nam 1 — originally believed to be bound for Myanmar with suspicious cargo on board, possibly illicit weapons — turned around and headed back north on Sunday, two U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.

The U.S. officials, speaking in Washington on Tuesday, said they do not know where the ship is going. But it was some 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Hong Kong on Tuesday and heading north, one official said.

The North Korean ship is the first vessel monitored under U.N. sanctions aimed at punishing the regime for conducting an underground nuclear test in May.

The new resolution seeks to clamp down on North Korea's trading of banned arms and weapons-related material by requiring U.N. member states to request inspections of ships suspected of carrying prohibited cargo.

The communist nation has said it would consider interception of its ships a declaration of war. On Wednesday, North Korea's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper renewed the warning.

"Touching our ships constitutes a grave military provocation against our country," the paper said in commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. "These acts will be followed immediately by self-defensive military countermeasures."

The North's warning did not specifically mention the Kang Nam 1, which the two U.S. officials said has been moving very slowly in recent days in a possible sign it was trying to conserve fuel. The resolution prohibits U.N. members from providing fuel to ships suspected of carrying banned items.

The officials said they did not know what the ship's turnaround means, nor what prompted it.

Myanmar's authorities had informed the North Korean ambassador that it would not allow the Kang Nam to dock if it was carrying weapons or other banned materials, a Radio Free Asia report said.

A U.S. delegation headed by envoy Philip Goldberg, meanwhile, headed to Beijing Wednesday to discuss the U.N. sanctions, the State Department said. Goldberg, a former ambassador, is in charge of coordinating the sanctions' implementation.

China's cooperation in enforcing the sanctions against neighboring North Korea, which counts Beijing as its main ally, is seen as crucial to encouraging the North back to nuclear disarmament talks the regime abandoned in April.

Pyongyang also threatened in April to launch a long-range missile. A no-sail zone remains in effect off North Korea's east coast through July 10. An announcement cited "military drills" but there were concerns the defiant nation might test-fire short- or medium-range missiles, or even a long-range missile, in further violation of Security Council resolutions.

However, there was no sign of an imminent missile launch Wednesday, an official at South Korea's Joint Chief of Staff said. He asked not to be named, citing agency policy.

In Washington, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions on Hong Kong Electronics, a company located in Kish Island, Iran, accused of involvement in North Korea's missile proliferation network.

That means any bank accounts or other financial assets found in the U.S. belonging to the company must be frozen. Americans also are prohibited from doing business with the firm.

Meanwhile, the North's regime has sought to whip up anti-American sentiment with a series of state-organized rallies. KCNA said Wednesday the latest anti-U.S. demonstrations were held through Tuesday in three provinces where participants condemned the U.N. resolution and what the regime calls a U.S. plot to invade the country.

Such rallies have been held since June 25, the anniversary of the 1950 outbreak of the Korean War where the U.S. fought alongside South Korea against invading troops from North Korea. The war ended in 1953 in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas still technically at war.

In Beijing, the U.N. World Food Program said Wednesday it was unable to reach millions of hungry women and children in the North due to a lack of international funding, and the North's new restrictions on its staff and where it can operate.

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  • by Derek Location: Greenville on Jul 2, 2009 at 09:00 AM
    Didn't Bush violate our constitution as well Dwayne? Our people spoke and voted in the other party...
  • by Cactus Location: Strabane on Jul 1, 2009 at 03:31 PM
    Who knows what's in the midget brain of this runt dictator.
  • by Dwayne Location: Greenville on Jul 1, 2009 at 09:35 AM
    The ship was probably a decoy for the real shipment of nuclear weaponry. Does it matter when our President and Secretary of State are on the side of Chavez. Our finest minds are for supporting a leader in Honduras that violated their constition and was ousted at the will of the people and order of their Supreme Court. Is it possible that Obama can see the same thing happening to him and he's frightened that the American people are going to wake up?
  • by JAMES on Jul 1, 2009 at 07:16 AM
    come on now, if we really wanted to we could be done with that little county in a few seconds. . .
  • by Barlow Location: Winterville on Jul 1, 2009 at 05:54 AM
    Obama has said that we are not going to reward bad behavior and/or be intimidated. It looks like his approach is working so far. As crazy as this government sounds sometimes, they have to know that even an attempt at using a nuclear weapon would mean immediate their annihilation. They are all bluster
  • by Kimo Location: Belhaen on Jul 1, 2009 at 05:48 AM
    Do you suppose the Koreans were simply "baiting" us with that ship - hoping we would stop it and find nothing - which would have really made us look bad??? I sure wouldn't put it past them.
  • by Mike Location: Edenton on Jul 1, 2009 at 03:38 AM
    The Cuban missile blockade worked and the Russians blinked. I'm not so sure the N Koreans are in their right mind and would blink. Maybe we should shadow their ships for awhile with a cruiser, turn away and let them radio the USN is pulling away, then let a Los Angeles class sub send it to Davy Jones' locker. GO NAVY!

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