SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea claimed it has captured an unmanned U.S. submersible and put it on display in Pyongyang near the captured spy ship USS Pueblo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan said Monday, but the U.S. dismissed the report.
The ultra-small unmanned submersible vessel was captured during a reconnaissance mission in waters off North Korea's eastern city of Hamhung, said the Choson Sinbo newspaper, which is published by a pro-North Korean association linked to the Pyongyang government.
The newspaper report on its Web site, monitored in Seoul, was accompanied by a picture purported to be of the black torpedo-shaped U.S. vessel. There were no further details as to when or how North Korea obtained it.
Last September, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il instructed officials to put the new spy vessel on public display along with the ship Pueblo that the communist regime captured in 1968, the newspaper said.
A spokesman for the U.S. military in South Korea, David Oten, dismissed the report.
"We have nothing unaccounted for and there is no way for us to verify that this is a U.S. vessel," Oten said.
The Pueblo, moored to the bank of the Taedong River in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, is now the site of tours to inspire anti-U.S. sentiment among the country's 23 million people.
Some 1,500 North Koreans made daily visits to the Pueblo during a recent monthlong anti-U.S. rally period, said the newspaper.
Despite repeated U.S. assurances that it has no intent to attack the North, the communist country frequently claims that Washington seeks to invade the North and that the U.S. is driving tensions on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war.
The North recently raised regional tensions by test-launching seven missiles, including a new long-range model believed capable of reaching the U.S. that failed shortly after takeoff.