N Korea accused over drugs haul

from the BBC:

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has expressed concern over North Korea’s possible role in trafficking drugs to Australia.

Mr Downer’s comments came after an official from North Korea’s ruling Worker’s Party was found on board a state-owned ship accused of bringing A$80m (US$50m) worth of heroin into Australia.

“Whilst we can’t prove that the government made the decision to send this ship… we are concerned that instrumentalities of the government may have been involved in this,” Mr Downer said.

“We are concerned because the ship is Korean-owned and it’s a totalitarian state, so in effect it is government-owned,” he added.

Mr Downer said he had arranged a meeting with North Korea’s ambassador to Australia, Chon Jae-hong, to discuss the issue.

Australian intelligence services raided the Pong Su freighter last month, off the country’s east coast.

The Australian forces seized the heroin and arrested approximately 30 crew members, most of whom are now awaiting trial in Melbourne.

This is not the first time North Korea has been accused of supplementing its failing economy by trafficking drugs.

Japanese officials have repeatedly accused Pyongyang of bringing methamphetamines and other drugs into their country.

In March, Japanese coast guards discovered drugs in a fishing boat which had travelled from North Korea.

‘Peaceful solution’

In a separate development, China and South Korea have agreed to continue seeking a peaceful solution to the dispute over North Korea’s suspected nuclear programme.

The agreement came during a telephone conversation between South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao.

Mr Roh thanked China for hosting last week’s talks in Beijing between North Korea and the United States, which both leaders are said to have described as “useful”.

The three-way talks in Beijing were the first high-level US-North Korean contact since the nuclear crisis erupted last year, when Washington said Pyongyang had admitted to a secret nuclear programme in violation of a 1994 treaty.

Japan sent its defence minister to India on Friday in a bid to seek support for its campaign to clamp down against North Korea’s nuclear threat.

“As Japan is directly threatened by any such weapons Pyongyang may possess, Tokyo would want to build a world opinion on the issue,” a senior diplomat told AFP.



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