Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Whatever Happened to the Kang Nam?

A note from Radarsite: Despite its being at least as dangerous, in its global implications, as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and despite the fact that, according the rather ambiguous Korea Herald report quoted below, this looming maritime crisis still remains factually unresolved, we hear no more about it. Did the Kang Nam really turn around and head back home without discharging it deadly cargo? Did Kim Jong Ill really blink? Or as one skeptic suggests, did it already offload at some unknown port? Either way, thanks to the overwhelming event of Michael Jackson's demise, and various other more important stories, it seems that the Kang Nam crisis is no longer deemed newsworthy. It's off the front page. But it's not off our radar screen. Did the world just avert a major catastrophe? Or has the world just decided to look the other way?

We will follow up on this. - rg


From the Korea Herald

Kang Nam may be heading back home

The Kang Nam, a North Korean ship suspected to be carrying illicit weapons or related material, may be headed back home, according to diplomatic sources here.

"The ship is near our waters. That is about all I can say," said one diplomatic source on the condition of anonymity.

Experts said this could mean that the ship is on its way back to North Korea, indicating that the latest United Nations Security Council sanctions are taking a toll on the reclusive communist state.

"If the ship is on its way back, it would mean that Resolution 1874 is taking effect and causing the North to retreat," said Kim Tae-woo, vice president of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.

It has been almost two weeks since the Kang Nam set sail on June 17, but Seoul has claimed it has no information on the whereabouts of the ship.

The Kang Nam is the first North Korean ship to come under international scrutiny since the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1874 that strongly recommends member states to help search and ground North Korean ships suspected of carrying illicit weapons or related material.

Some observers said the Kang Nam may have already unloaded such items, but others said the North would wait until the last minute, as the weapons and materials constitute a vital source of funds for the impoverished regime.

Myanmar, the alleged destination of the Kang Nam, has recently told the foreign press that it would not allow the ship to disembark if it is found to be indeed carrying such items.

The government of Myanmar already has an idea of the items on the ship as the Kang Nam must declare them in advance, according to Foreign Ministry officials.

"The fact that the Myanmarese government has spoken out, if it has as some of the news reports claim, it indicates that the resolution is working," said one Foreign Ministry official.

The Myanmar Embassy here said it had no comment.

A United States destroyer - USS John McCain led by Capt. Jeffrey Kim - is reportedly close on the Kang Nam's tail. But the destroyer is not authorized to forcefully search the North Korean ship.

Due to these limits, critics have said the resolution needs to plug the loopholes by allowing such actions by the member states.


By Kim Ji-hyun


  1. Anybody want to place a bet on the fact that the Kang Nam offloaded in Myanmar? And the cargo is probably headed for Iran as we speak.

    Only with Chief Run Your Mouth Off, sorry Obama could something like this happen. Expect more of the same in the future.

  2. I thought the US John McCain was shadowing???? The report yesterday said the ship turned around and was retracing it's steps.

    Earlier in the journey, reports were that we could nothing until the Kang Nam left the China coastline.

    There's always the possibility that the ship was carrying nothing and hope to provoke something. I can see Kim Jong Il hoping we would board or give him so reason to do something.

    What we need to remember is that every ship coming out and going in needs to be traced, if not boarded (doesn't appear that will happen).

    He is likely getting the last laugh. "Oh well, I tied up the US Navy, cost 'em a bunch. Look here comes another."

    We were expecting them to offload at Myanmar. Surely we know whether that happened or not.

  3. Maybe the ship is returning because it was called back by it's crazy dictator. Maybe they will in fact be shooting it's long rang missile and they don't want to have their merchandise stopped and taken away from them

  4. Hi Roger,

    Thanks for covering this! I spent half the day Sunday searching for some small tidbit I could use. The best I could find was a report that Radio Free Asia indicated Burma had sent word they intended to refuse permit the vessel to dock if it had weapons or other prohibited materials.

    Certainly we would have known if it got into port. Likely strategy includes return to Nampo and fly the "cargo" to clients. This assumes permission to use Russian or Chinese airspace. 1874 has no doubt begun to restrict DPRK access to funds which makes it imperative to close the $ale

    -- Keep the Light On --
    Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny. Edmund Burke