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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2529

North Korean cargo vessel ‘anchored’ in Indian territorial waters

By M Rama Rao, India Editor, Asian Tribune

New Delhi, 07 Aug ( A North Korean cargo ship, M V San, has anchored in the Indian territorial waters putting the Indian navy and coast guard in a tizzy. The ship captain claims that he was forced to be in the Indian waters as his vessel developed mechanical problems on Wednesday but his claim doesn’t appear to be corroborated.

While captain contends that the vessel was carrying 16000 tonnes of sugar from Thailand to Iraq, Indian maritime agencies are apprehensive that the North Korean could be carrying nuclear components. The vessel has since been brought to Port Blair and physical investigation has been taken up according to reports from Chennai.

Here in Delhi, the Indian Naval chief Admiral Suresh Mehta said the N Korean vessel has no business to be in Indian waters. He conceded that ‘at the moment’ it was carrying ‘genuine’ merchandise but voiced the apprehension that there could nuclear components on the merchant ship.

‘The fact is that the ship had no business to be there. That (it was carrying nuclear components) was our apprehension also. At the moment, it is carrying genuine merchandise’ the Admiral was quoted as saying.

The apprehension is due to the fact that way back in 1999 a North Korean vessel, M V Ku Wol San, was seized off Kandla on the Gujarat coast with 177-tonne nuclear components and manuals.

Like now, then also, the ship's manifest claimed it was carrying sugar. Its merchandise -13,000 tonnes of sugar and water purification equipment was suspected to be transporting nuclear components to Karachi port.

Interrogation of the M V San crew is hampered as they cannot speak English and are conversant only with Korean. Local Coast Guard officials therefore summoned Korean interpreters and other experts to help them

It appears that the vessel entered Indian territorial waters about 65 nautical miles south of Port Blair. It had set out from a Thailand port on July 27.

Coast Guard Commander for Andaman and Nicobar Region, K R Nautiyal, said they are in the process of investigation. According to him, there are a ‘few inconsistencies’ like for instance, ‘some papers are not in order’.

Coast Guard noticed M V San anchored off Little Andaman on Wednesday and its joint effort with the Navy, to get a response to radio signals, had failed. Consequently, the Coast Guard flew one of its aircraft to check out the cargo vessel, but yet again the ship did not respond to its radio communication. Two patrol vessels were sent there but on seeing them, the Korean ship reportedly tried to flee. A warning shot made it sail to Port Blair.

If the investigations show nothing untoward on board the vessel, it might be allowed to proceed.

-Asian Tribune -

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