DPRK shipping sugar to Iraq

UPDATE: According to the Telegraph (of India):

But it transpired later that the management of the shipping company had asked the Mu San to loiter in Indian waters because they might get a better price for their cargo in India.

UPDATE:  The boat has been moved to yet another port for further inspection: Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh state.  Here is the location in Wikimpia.

ORIGINAL POST: This week there was a worry that another North Korean ship might be carrying military goods to Myanmar in violation of UN sanctions.  Despite the strange behavior of the North Korean crew, the ship appears to be shipping sugar to Iraq!

First–the chase (According to the New York Times):

The ship anchored without authorization in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a territory of India in the Bay of Bengal, last week, according to the Indian military.

Indian officials said it was carrying more than 16,000 tons of sugar bound for the Middle East. But the ship’s proximity to Myanmar, a North Korean ally, and the fact that it had no apparent reason to be in the area raised suspicions.

The coast guard intercepted the ship after chasing it for six hours, and detained 39 North Korean crew members.

After two days of searching and of questioning the crew, India’s Navy and Coast Guard handed the ship over to police and intelligence services, having found no evidence of illegal cargo, according to the Press Trust of India.

Ashok Chand, a senior police officer in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, told Reuters that further tests were being conducted.

But it remains a mystery why the ship was in Indian waters at all.

India has watched warily for signs that North Korea is helping Myanmar build a nuclear reactor.

The investigation turned up some strange detials, but no UN violations.  According to UPI:

A preliminary search showed the ship, as stated by its captain, was transporting 16,000 tons of sugar from Thailand to Iraq, Indian media reports said.

The ship, M.V. Mu San is detained at Port Blair after dropping anchor without authorization off Hut Bay in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal Wednesday.

Mu San sailed off Thailand’s Laem Chabang port July 27 but an investigation showed it berthed in Singapore three days later, although that was not a port of call, and that the crew’s passports were not stamped in Singapore, the Times of India reported.

The report said authorities were interrogating the ship’s captain Yon Jung-sun and the other 38-member crew, with only one or two among them speaking English.

Further information:

1. Here is a great research paper on the DPRK’s merchant fleet.

2. Here are some stats on the DPRK’s flagged fleet from the CIA.

3. Here is the location of Hut Bay, where the ship was anchored.

4. Here is the location of Port Blair, where the ship was taken.

Read the full artilces here:
India searches North Korean ship
UPI
8/9/2009

N. Korean Ship Searched for Radioactive Material
New York Times
Lydia Polgreen
8/10/2009

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