N Korea ship carrying arms?

2009-06-21 18:00

Seoul - A US Navy destroyer is tailing a North Korean ship suspected of carrying illicit weapons towards Myanmar in what could be the first test of new UN sanctions against the North over its recent nuclear test, a leading TV network said on Sunday.

The South Korean news network YTN, citing an unidentified intelligence source, said the US suspects the cargo ship Kang Nam is carrying missiles and related parts.

Myanmar's military government, which faces an arms embargo from the United States and the European Union, has reportedly bought weapons from North Korea.

YTN said the US has deployed a destroyer and is using satellites to track the ship, which was expected to travel to Myanmar via Singapore.

South Korea's Defence Ministry, Unification Ministry and National Intelligence Service said they couldn’t confirm the report.

Calls to the US military command in Seoul were not answered late on Sunday.

Nuclear explosion

The ship is reportedly the first North Korean vessel to be tracked under the new UN sanctions.

Two US officials said on Thursday that the US military had begun tracking the ship, which left a North Korean port on Wednesday and was travelling off the coast of China.

One of the officials said it was uncertain what the Kang Nam was carrying, but that it had been involved in weapons proliferation before. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have spiked since North Korea defiantly conducted its second nuclear explosion on May 25.

 It later declared it would expand its atomic bomb programme and threatened war to protest the UN sanctions imposed in response to its nuclear test.
The sanctions toughen an earlier arms embargo against North Korea and authorise ship searches in an attempt to thwart its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.