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Japanese flock to inspect Korean spy ship
By Colin Joyce in Tokyo
(Filed: 02/06/2003)

Thousands of Japanese queued for hours yesterday to see the rusting hulk of a North Korean spy ship after it was put on display in Tokyo. The vessel was sunk after being riddled with bullets by the Japanese coastguard during a gun battle in December 2001.

The ship, retrieved from the sea bed last September, has yielded fascinating glimpses into how North Korea has repeatedly infiltrated Japan to spy and to smuggle drugs for hard currency.

In the fashionable O-Daiba area of Tokyo two-hour queues formed as Japanese flocked to the Maritime Science Museum. People of all ages filed silently past and took pictures of the 45-foot boat.

Takashi Ueda, who works at the museum, said: "North Korea is on the news daily here, whether for their nuclear weapons programme or their abduction of Japanese citizens. There is great interest in this boat and the North Korean problem. We estimate we have four to five times the usual number of visitors."

Packets of North Korean cigarettes and a badge of the deceased leader Kim Il-Sung leave little doubt of the ship's origins. The most chilling piece of evidence is a small switch labelled "self destruct" in Korean. Japan believes the crew used this switch to scupper the boat rather than be captured.

Ten bodies were recovered from the ship but the array of armaments recovered - dozens of automatic weapons, a surface-to-air missile launcher and even an underwater scooter capable of carrying up to three men - indicates that there would have been more people aboard.

The vessel was disguised as a Chinese fishing boat but is believed to have been smuggling drugs to Japan. Last month a senior North Korean defector told a US Senate sub-committee how North Korea routinely ran drugs to neighbouring countries.

North Korean agents are believed to have penetrated Japan over decades to spy and to buy up technology useful for its weapons programmes. They also kidnapped Japanese citizens to teach the Japanese language and customs at spy schools.

Last year, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il admitted a dozen abductions in the 1970s and 1980s and allowed five Japanese to go home.

The tension between North Korea and its neighbours was in evidence again yesterday when South Korea's navy fired warning shots after eight North Korean fishing boats crossed the border between the rival nations.

There were no reports of any injuries or damage. The incursion happened in the Yellow Sea, rich crab fishing grounds where naval gun battles erupted last June and in 1999.

External links  
And check out this link to the Japanses Museum of Maritime Science - just too bizarre dude (dig that crazy beat!):


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