North Korean ship taken ashore

Kyodo

The North Korean spy ship salvaged late last month from the East China Sea was finally brought ashore to a dockyard on Sunday for further investigation.

The ship had been under inspection on a barge moored on the coast off Kagoshima Prefecture.

The crane-equipped barge holding the ship in a water tank was towed to the front of the shipyard in the morning. The crane lifted the ship out of the tank and placed it on a transport vehicle on shore. It was then moved to the dockyard.

The Japan Coast Guard will examine the ship further to determine its navigation route and purpose.

The ship sank Dec. 22 after exchanging fire with coast guard patrol boats.

It was raised from the seabed, some 90 meters below the surface and 390 kilometers from the Amami Islands in Kagoshima Prefecture, on Sept. 11. The coast guard kept the ship in the tank while determining if it was safe to investigate it further.

So far, more than 700 items have been gathered from the ship, including a number of pins with the image of the late Kim Il Sung, the former North Korean leader and father of current leader Kim Jong Il. A large cache of weapons and ammunition was also discovered, which contained portable ground-to-air missile launchers and bullets.

Given this material and circumstantial evidence, Japan has concluded the ship was used by North Korea for espionage.

During a Sept. 17 summit meeting with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Pyongyang, Kim Jong Il admitted that the country’s military had operated spy ships near the Japanese archipelago.