Mexico vows to keep North Korean ship owned by U.N.-sanctioned company

The Mu Du Bong, a North Korean cargo freighter that ran aground in Mexico almost two years ago, will remain in that country for the foreseeable future, officials said.

According to the Korea Times, a well-placed Mexican official who requested anonymity told the paper that representatives of the country told South Korea that Mexico "will continue to detain the ship."

The topic came up, the paper reported, ahead of a meeting between Mexican Pres. Enrique Peña Nieto and his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-hye.

Mexico’s decision comes a month after the U.N. Security Council hit North Korea with its strictest sanctions ever on the Asian nation on March 2. The sanctions were in response to nuclear tests and missile launches conducted by the regime of Kim Jong-un earlier this year.

The Mu Du Bong crashed on a reef near Tuxpan, Mexico, in July 2014. The vessel was impounded because the company it belonged to, the North Korean firm Ocean Maritime Management (OMM), had been sanctioned by the U.N. for engaging in the illegal arms trade.

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In the summer of 2013, another of OMM’s vessels, the Chong Chon Gang, was captured by Panama on the way to North Korea from Cuba carrying two Mig-21 aircraft and weapons hidden under a cargo of sugar.

A number of OMM freighters have been specifically sanctioned by the U.N. for their involvement in the country’s nuclear and missile program. According to the Maritime Executive, the Mu Du Bong is not among them, but the company has renamed many of its vessels in an attempt to disguise them.

In February, the Jin Teng – an OMM freighter on the sanctions list – was detained by the Philippines.

Bowing to pressure from the Chinese, who are friendly with North Korea, the Jin Teng was among four ships that were struck from the list, and the Philippines released the vessel.

None of which seems to have altered Mexico’s resolve to hold onto the 6,700-ton Mu Du Bong, although it released the vessel’s 33 crewmembers last year.

North Korea has asked for the ship to be released in the past, claiming that it’s a purely commercial freighter.

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