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US destroyer tailing 'suspect' North Korean ship

A UNITED States Navy destroyer is tailing a North Korean ship suspected of carrying illicit weapons toward Myanmar in what could be the first test of new United Nations sanctions against North Korea over its recent nuclear test, a TV network said yesterday.

The South Korean news network YTN, citing an unidentified intelligence source in the country, said the US suspects the cargo ship Kang Nam is carrying missiles and related parts. Myanmar's government, which faces an arms embargo from the US 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 is expected to travel to Myanmar via Singapore.

South Korea's Defense Ministry, Unification Ministry and National Intelligence Service said they could not confirm the report. Calls to the US military command in Seoul were not answered late last night.

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

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

One of the officials said it was uncertain what the Kang Nam was carrying, but that the ship had been involved in weapons proliferation before.

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

It later declared it would expand its atomic bomb program and threatened war to protest UN sanctions imposed in response to its nuclear test.

The sanctions toughen an earlier arms embargo against North Korea and authorize ship searches in an attempt to thwart its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

US President Barack Obama said the sanctions would be aggressively enforced after talks on Tuesday with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Washington. Obama also reaffirmed the US security commitment to South Korea, including nuclear protection.

In its response to the summit, North Korea's government-run weekly Tongil Sinbo said Obama's comments revealed a US plot to invade the country with nuclear weapons.


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