N Korean report raises Pong Su compo claim

Australia Broadcasting Corporation (Reuters)

North Korea hinted at seeking compensation from Australia for seizing and sinking the Pong Su, that was used to transport drugs, according to a state media report.

Last week, two Australian fighter jets bombed and sank the impounded North Korean cargo ship in what Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said was a strong message to Pyongyang about its suspected involvement in drug running.

The official KCNA news agency cited a relatively obscure pro-North Korean group as saying Australia needs to compensate North Korea.

“The Australian authorities should make an honest apology to it according to the results of the trial and compensate to the ship and its crewmen for the human, material and mental damage done to them,” KCNA reported the Federation of Koreans in the United States as saying in a commentary.

There was no official demand for compensation from North Korea but analysts have noted that since the government controls the media, it only permits approved comments to appear.

The 4,000-tonne ship the Pong Su had been impounded since 2003, when it led the Australian navy on a 1,100 kilometre chase off the south-eastern coast after being spotted unloading part of a 150 kilogram shipment of heroin at a secluded beach.

Eight crew members were charged with drug smuggling.

The captain and three officers were sent back to North Korea earlier this month after being found not guilty of aiding the drug operation. Four other men have been found guilty of drugs charges relate to the case.

The United States has said it suspects North Korea of engaging in illicit activities such as counterfeiting and drug trafficking as a way to secure funds for its anaemic economy.


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