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(LEAD) S. Korea searched suspicious N.K. containers: sources

All Headlines 16:03 October 05, 2009

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in para 3)
By Tony Chang

SEOUL, Oct. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea confiscated and searched containers shipped by North Korea on a Panama-registered freighter last month but reportedly found no suspicious cargo, according to sources Monday.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) and relevant authorities on Sept. 22 ordered an inspection of the ship docked in the southeastern port of Busan and searched the four containers, a government official said, requesting anonymity.

The official said authorities found some kind of protective clothing but did not elaborate further.

A port official in Busan also confirmed that the NIS ordered the search, saying it received tips that the containers could be carrying hazardous material. The ship carrying the containers had arrived from China last month.

"Nothing particular was discovered from the search, but I'm aware that the government is still in the process of confirming the results," the port official said, refusing to elaborate.

The NIS and the foreign ministry neither confirmed nor denied the claim, but observers speculate the search was conducted as part of Seoul's participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a U.S.-led counter-proliferation campaign, as well as U.N. Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1874.

Seoul joined the PSI, which was launched in 2003 to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, after North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in May this year.

North Korea is known as an exporter of illicit weapons and is among the major targets of the initiative.

UNSC Resolution 1874, adopted after North Korea's second nuclear test, calls for an overall arms embargo on the communist country, as well as financial sanctions and interdiction of cargo on the high seas to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, missiles and other weapons of mass destruction.


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