U.S. Won’t Board Suspected N. Korean Arms Ship

The North Korean ship Kang Nam I may be carrying missiles to Burma, and then again, it may be headed for a stopover in Burma as it transits to points west.  And then again, it may merely be carrying “small” arms and bullets for shooting dissidents and uppity monks (for which their next of kin will be duly billed).  The official Burmese version is that they aren’t expecting the Kang Nam I in any of their ports.

For some reason, however, the U.S.S. John S. McCain has tracked the Kang Nam I all the way from the Yellow Sea though the Taiwan Strait at taxpayer expense, just so that we can flash a green light at it:

The United States will not use force to inspect a North Korean ship suspected of carrying banned goods, an American official was quoted as saying Friday.

An American destroyer has been shadowing the North Korean freighter sailing off China’s coast, possibly on its way to Myanmar.  [AP]

Whatever the Chinese slipped in Ban Ki Moon’s drink has had the desired effect; this is how U.N. resolutions die within weeks of being passed.  Through the simple artifice of allying itself with other nations that are willing to disregard the U.N.’s writ, North Korea can flout its practical impunity to proliferate at will.  Tell me I’m wrong:

Flournoy said the U.S. still has “incentives and disincentives that will get North Korea to change course.”

“Everything remains on the table, but we’re focused on implementing the resolution fully, responsibly and with our international partners,” she said.

Given that we were still seeking the cooperation of those “partners” a few days ago, I can see how our smart, tough new diplomacy worked for us.  Those partners can be forgiven for reaching the same conclusion that I did — that there’s no apparent legal authority in UNSCR 1874 or anywhere else to board this ship by force.

Of course, they could also be forgiven for concluding (as I also did) that some liberties must be taken with any law that becomes a gift certificate for a session with Dr. Kevorkian.  The best venue for taking those liberties might have been the Strait of Malacca, where the Kang Nam I would have had to pass within the territorial waters of Singapore, Malaysia, and/or Indonesia.

So now, all that’s really left to do is to awaken in rage at how China has spent the last two decades date-raping our diplomats and the entire United Nations while it helped North Korea go nuclear and shielded it from the consequences of doing so.  Which brings us right back to the same “incentives” and hobbled disincentives that never worked before and never will.

Say, do you taste something funny in your drink?  Me neither.


  1. damn. ok. my positive thinking didn’t work. that UN sanction is full of crap.

    at least there is more negative press for the NK more than EVER in the past few years.

    why am i being so damn glass half full? it’s freaking me out.


  2. The Kang Nam has already passed Hong Kong and is headed south on the South China Sea right now. The UN General Secretary (Ban Ki-Moon) just announced that he’s going to Burma this week. Wouldn’t if be funny if both Korean entities arrive in Burma on the same day?
    I’m wishfully thinking it’s time for Ban Ki-Moon to say to the world: “If you want U.N. sanctions done right, you have to do it yourself!” as he struts with swagger across the Burmese dock and boards the North Korean ship.
    What? You think Ki-Moon will stay in his Rangoon hotel and order a movie instead?


  3. also, just wondering, is the captain of USS McCain the 1st Korean-American to ever be a captain of a ship?


  4. “The whole thing just doesn’t add up,” said one senior administration official who has been tracking the cargo ship’s lazy summer journey. “My worry is that we make a big demand about seeing the cargo, and then there’s a tense standoff, and when it’s all over we discover that old man Kim set us up to look like George Bush searching for nonexistent W.M.D.”

    That’s largely short-sighted hooey.

    A resolution authorizing inspection for possible illegal things does not say something has to be found or else. What would we do if it did? Customs checkpoints at airports and other points of entry would become obsolete fast.

    Or, another way to look at it — we have laws about false arrest but we don’t extend that to “false search warrants” if a search is sanctioned but turns up nothing.

    The point of creating the resolutions in the first place is – like with a search warrant – North Korea has already proven itself a criminal/rogue regime by using commercial shipping to ferry drugs, weapons, currency, you name it. It has already been caught at this before – thus the need to check them out.

    Such resolutions (or search warrants) are not a house of cards that falls apart and can’t be used again just because you don’t find something one of the times you look…

    And besides, what would we do if we did find something? Last time we just watched it go back on its merry way…

    Pentagon officials are clearly not eager to confront the Kang Nam 1. The intelligence about what is on board is typically murky. Some say they suspect small arms, which are banned by the United Nations resolution but hardly a major threat.


    There is no hope…

    Our military is afraid to search a ship because it might not find anything banned. Goody for North Korea – rubbing its hands together thinking about all the illegal stuff that will get through.

    And the NY Times doesn’t really care about enforcing UN resolutions unless they are really, really important…


    Mr. Obama’s top aides say they are acutely aware of the dangers if the same happened with the Kang Nam 1. Whatever momentum the administration has created to confront the North Koreans would be lost if the first intercepted ship was carrying sea bass, or Ping-Pong balls.

    Only because that is how orgs like you have defined it!!!

    Because —

    But the Kang Nam 1 is a test of whether United Nations sanctions have some teeth.

    — if that’s true, the search itself — boarding the ship on the high seas or forcing it to port to be searched — is the point. That is the teeth the UN is showing. It isn’t dependent on finding something dirty.

    It is no wonder Pyongyang so frequently laughs at the world community…