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India searches North Korean ship

PORT BLAIR, India, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Indian agencies will conduct a further search and interrogate the crew of a North Korean ship they say illegally entered Indian waters, officials said.

A preliminary search showed the ship, as stated by its captain, was transporting 16,000 tons of sugar from Thailand to Iraq, Indian media reports said.

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The ship, M.V. Mu San is detained at Port Blair after dropping anchor without authorization off Hut Bay in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal Wednesday.

Mu San sailed off Thailand's Laem Chabang port July 27 but an investigation showed it berthed in Singapore three days later, although that was not a port of call, and that the crew's passports were not stamped in Singapore, the Times of India reported.

The report said authorities were interrogating the ship's captain Yon Jung-sun and the other 38-member crew, with only one or two among them speaking English.

North Korea is under tightened United Nations sanctions following its May 25 nuclear test. The sanctions allow U.N. members to inspect North Korean ships suspected of carrying missile or nuclear technology.

Indian Coast Guard official K.R. Nautiyal in the Andaman and Nicobar region was quoted as saying the crew's claim the vessel had developed a mechanical problem turned out to be false. He said there was no proper explanation why the destination of Iraq was changed midway.

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"Asked why they tried to escape on seeing the Indian Coast Guard vessel, they said they mistook the ship for a pirate vessel. We cannot buy these versions," Nautiyal said.

Some North Korean ships have been caught in the past carrying missile and nuclear components, the Times said.

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