The Irrawaddy News Magazine [Covering Burma and Southeast Asia]

Likely Destination of N Korean Ship Often Used for Weapons Deliveries
By MIN LWIN Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Myanmar International Terminals Thilawa (MITT), believed to be the destination of the Kang Nam 1, a North Korean cargo ship being tracked by the US Navy, has often been used for deliveries of weapons, according to sources at the facility.

The Kang Nam 1, which left a North Korean port on June 17, is believed to be carrying weapons, missile parts or possibly even nuclear materials.

Cargo ships are docked at Myanmar International Terminals Thilawa (MITT) deep sea port near Rangoon. (Photo: AP)
“There are two reasons to use Thilawa,” said an MITT operator. “First, it is not too close to Rangoon, and second, it is easy to increase security here so people don’t know what is being unloaded.”

The international multi-purpose container port, Burma’s largest deep sea port, is located about 30 km south of Rangoon.

According to other MITT employees, the facility has often been used for deliveries of weapons since it was built in the mid-1990s.

“Cargo ships carrying many kinds of weapons from Russia, China, North Korea and the Ukraine have docked at Thilawa,” said an MITT worker.

Normally, the source explained, the ships are offloaded around midnight to avoid attracting attention. Then, around 2 a.m., convoys of trucks deliver the weapons to a military depot at Intaing, about 25 km north of Rangoon.

“When cargo ships carrying military equipment dock at the port, naval personnel based near Thilawa take over port security and coordinate the unloading of the ships,” he said. “No unauthorized personnel are allowed near the port when cargo ships carrying weapons dock here.”

On Wednesday, officials from the Myanmar Port Authority, which operates under the Ministry of Transport, met with the Thilawa port authorities. It is believed that the meeting was related to the imminent arrival of the Kang Nam 1.

“We don’t know when the ship will dock and we haven’t received any instructions concerning its berthing schedule,” said an MITT employee, adding that this was normal procedure for handling ships carrying weapons.

The source also said that employees of MITT had been instructed not to speak to exiled media about the Kang Nam 1.

On Thursday, the Burmese state-run newspaper, The News Light of Myanmar, reported that the government had denied that the Kang Nam 1 was heading for Burma.

The report said that the Burmese junta had not received any information about the Kang Nam 1, but was expecting another North Korean ship, the MV Dumangang, to arrive in Burma on June 27 to pick up 8,000 tons of rice.

The USS John S McCain started following the Kang Nam 1 soon after it left port last week. The USS McCampbell is now shadowing the ship, which is being monitored under UN sanctions imposed earlier this month following North Korea’s underground nuclear test in May.

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