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   Vol. 70/No. 46           December 4, 2006  
French forces board north Korean ship
(feature article)
French officials boarded and searched a north Korean cargo ship at an Indian Ocean island in mid-November. It was the first time a north Korean ship had officially been stopped under an October 14 United Nations Security Council resolution that imposed sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Four other ships from that country have also been stopped since the sanctions were decreed, allegedly for other reasons.

The sanctions, pushed by Washington and other imperialist powers, were decreed after the government in Pyongyang announced October 8 it had conducted a nuclear weapons test. Since 2003, under the Proliferation Security Initiative, Washington and its allies have been asserting their prerogative to stop, board, and confiscate the cargo of any ship they claim is carrying “suspect” cargo.

The ship, carrying a cargo of cement from Singapore to the Comoros Islands, was first inspected by French customs and police officers November 11 while still at sea near Mayotte, a French island colony located between Madagascar and the southeast coast of Africa.

Once docked, French agents boarded the vessel and searched it “from bow to stern and top to bottom,” said an unnamed customs official, according to the Associated Press. The 45-person crew was also searched. They found no items banned by the sanctions, however. The inspection dragged on for nearly a week.

On October 14 the UN Security Council decreed sanctions against north Korea, allowing member states to board the country’s ships and inspect all imports from or exports to it, to freeze all assets allegedly connected to its nuclear program, and to impose a trade ban on all commodities deemed military or luxury goods.

French foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei told the Associated Press, “We are exercising particular vigilance regarding cargo transported by North Korean ships, and all ships starting from or heading to North Korea.” Mattei noted that after Pyongyang’s nuclear test, Paris immediately restricted visas for north Koreans and canceled all “bilateral contacts.”

In related actions, Chinese authorities in Hong Kong stopped two north Korean cargo ships in October, supposedly for safety reasons. Burmese authorities inspected cargo of a north Korean ship that anchored at a port in early November. Indian officials interrogated the 12 crew members of a north Korean vessel heading to Iran that entered Indian waters.

The south Korean government has balked at Washington’s demand that it take part in interceptions of ships from the DPRK. Officials in Seoul are nervous that such action could “lead to naval clashes, or even a war, with the North,” the New York Times reported.

The French government’s act of piracy in the Indian Ocean was reported as U.S. president George Bush used his trip to Asia to try to drum up support for more military and economic pressure against the DPRK.
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U.S. Congress blocks bill to normalize trade ties with Vietnam  
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