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June 22, 2009 (DVB), A North Korean ship being tracked by the US navy over suspicions that it is carrying arms in breach of new UN sanctions on the country is likely to be heading towards Burma, according to South Korean news sources.
The United States has been tracking the Kang Nam freighter ship since it left a North Korean port on Wednesday.
Under revamped UN sanctions on North Korea, which include a complete ban on arms imports and exports, ships suspected of carrying arms can be stopped and a request for a search made.
Yesterday a South Korean news agency, YTN, quoted unidentified intelligence sources as saying the ship was headed towards Burma, which is also subject to a US-enforced ban on arms imports.
According to journalist Bertil Lintner, if the YTN reports are true, this would be the second time the Kang Nam has been to Burma, following its docking at Rangoon's Thilawar port in May 2007, allegedly to seek shelter from storm.
"It offloaded some heavy equipment, it's not clear what it was, but the Kang Nam specifically is known to be carrying what the Americans usually describe as 'material of proliferation concern'", said Lintner.
The latest news follows the emergence of photographs earlier this month that allegedly show North Korean foreign advisors in Burma consulting with government officials on the construction of a tunnel network, likely as emergency shelters in the event of an attack.
Lintner, who revealed the North Korean tunnel project in the Yale Global, says that this is a sign that ties between the two countries are strengthening.
"Even China is reluctant to sell certain types of equipment to Burma but North Korea will be willing to sell anything they want," he said, adding that "Burma has absolutely no interest in supporting an arms embargo".
Given the arms embargo on Burma, it is unlikely the government there would comply with a UN resolution to allow the US to search ships docking at their ports.
North Korea, whose defense has been bolstered by the successful nuclear test, has said that interceptions of any of its ships would be considered an "act of war" and would react accordingly.
Reporting by Francis Wade