After a standoff and slow-speed chase at sea, a North Korean ship suspected of carrying missile components to Burma turned around and went home. The US Navy intercepted the ship, which has been suspected of previous illegal shipments, on May 26 somewhere south of Shanghai. In an apparent attempt to throw off investigators, the ship was registered in Belize, but that country gave American officials permission to inspect it. The North Koreans refused four times to allow the US to board, and the White House was not willing to risk a firefight by forcibly doing so, officials familiar with the incident tell the New York Times.
Plus, one official notes, “There is always a chance that the North is setting us up for a raid that they know will find nothing. So we want to make sure we don’t fall into a trap.” Meanwhile, in Washington, a representative from Burma happened to be among a group of senior officials visiting from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. On May 27, Obama’s top nuclear adviser raised the subject with the group. The rep protested the accusations; nonetheless, the diplomatic pressure must have worked: A few days later the North Korean ship stopped and turned back. It’s a rare victory, considering a similar shipment made it to Burma last year.