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NORTH KOREA DENOUNCES US DRUG TRAFFICKING

By Alfa, Mar 11, 2004 | |
  1. Alfa
    NORTH KOREA DENOUNCES US DRUG TRAFFICKING REPORT

    SEOUL (AP)--North Korea lashed out Friday at a new U.S. State
    Department report accusing the communist regime in the strongest terms
    to date of state-sponsored drug trafficking, denouncing it as a
    "mud-slinging" smear campaign.

    The annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released
    Monday in Washington, painted North Korea as an increasingly bold
    trafficker in methamphetamine and heroin and said Pyongyang was likely
    backing it "for profit as state policy."

    It cited recent drug seizures throughout East Asia and testimony from
    defectors who say North Korea has large-scale poppy cultivation for
    opium production.

    "It appears doubtful that large quantities of illicit narcotics could
    be produced in and/or trafficked through North Korea without
    high-level party and/or government involvement, if not state support,"
    the report concluded.

    A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed the allegations
    Friday, saying his government "bans by law the use, transaction and
    production of drug which renders people mentally deformed."

    "This mud-slinging is a product of the U.S. policy of isolating and
    stifling DPRK," he told the North's official KCNA news agency. DPRK
    stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's
    official name.

    "The U.S. would be well advised to mind its own business," he
    added.

    The U.S. and several of North Korea's neighbors, including Japan, have
    often suspected the impoverished nation of trafficking drugs to prop
    up its failed economy.

    But U.S. officials had referred only infrequently to North Korea's
    role in the illicit trade.

    That changed after the North Korean cargo ship Pong Su was caught off
    the coast of Australia last April with 125 kilograms of heroin in its
    hold.

    The stash was worth US$154 million.

    The State Department's report cited that incident along with a June
    2003 seizure of 50 kilograms of methamphetamine in the South Korean
    port of Busan.

    At the time, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported the shipment
    had an estimated street value of $250 million.

    The drugs were packed onto a Chinese ship in the North Korean port of
    Najin, it said. While it is unclear where the methamphetamine was
    manufactured, the State Department said the seizure suggests collusion
    between Chinese and North Korean drug runners.

    On Friday, six men including three North Koreans were ordered to stand
    trial in Australian court for drug smuggling charges in the Pong Su
    case.

    The trial could shed more light on North Korea's alleged role in


    international drug trafficking.

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