Even as North Korea’s outlaw regime fumed that international sanctions against its missile and nuclear programs are unreasonable and disgraceful, North Korean forces have reportedly hijacked a Russian yacht.
The yacht, named Katalexa, sent a radio message on Wednesday night from the Sea of Japan declaring it had been “hijacked, or arrested, by a North Korean ship,” according to a Russian maritime expert quoted by the UK Daily Mail.
No further messages have been sent from the vessel, but Russian media claim it was taken to the North Korean port city of Rason where Russian diplomatic officials are headed to resolve the situation.
Russia’s TASS news service reports the Russian embassy in North Korea also seems to have confirmed the incident by calling for the immediate release of the crew and expressing “bewilderment” over their detention, apparently because North Korea decided the yacht was violating its territorial waters.
According to TASS, the yacht was actually being towed from Taiwan to an island near Vladivostok when North Korea intercepted it. Evidently, the towing vessel was allowed to proceed because the three detained Russian crew members were on board the yacht.
A similar incident occurred last year when the North Koreans mistakenly believed they saw a South Korean logo on a Russian vessel, but observers with the most pessimistic view of the current situation, including the Daily Mail and Daily Star, suggest North Korea might have seized the Katalexa in a fit of pique over Russian objections to its missile program and recent Russian measures to strengthen defenses along its border with North Korea.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry chose this moment to publish a tirade against international sanctions, asserting its right to develop nuclear weapons and denouncing bans on exports of non-military items from sports equipment to frozen chicken.
“The despicable sanctions and pressure imposed on the DPRK by the U.S. and its vassal forces have reached the extreme,” the statement said, using North Korea’s name for itself, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Their sanctions have grown utterly vicious and barbaric today as to try to obliterate the rights to existence and development of the state and people of the DPRK, destroy modern civilization and bring the world back into medieval darkness,” the Foreign Ministry fumed.
Citing the bans on exporting some sporting equipment to North Korea, the ministry declared, “Archery equipment would never become ballistic rockets and sports rifles could never be used to launch nuclear warheads, but some countries either being overpowered by or blindly following the high-handed practices of the hostile forces are bringing disgrace to the ideal and purpose of sports.”
The statement also accused the U.S. and European nations of blocking shipments of humanitarian supplies bound for North Korea, such as mosquito repellent to combat malaria outbreaks and x-ray equipment.
“As the U.S. and other hostile forces get more frantic in the moves to impose the toughest sanctions and pressure on the DPRK, the hatred and rage of the army and people of the country will only grow stronger and the DPRK will further speed up the strengthening of its nuclear force to root out the base of aggression and all evils,” the Foreign Ministry insisted.
South Korea’s Yonhap News notes that the level of specific detail contained in the North Korean statement is extraordinary; it lists specific numbers of government and Communist Party entities affected by the sanctions, insisting that “hardly any of them” are directly associated with weapons development.
Yonhap also highlights passages in the North Korean statement that seem intended to rope China and Russia into an alliance with Pyongyang against the cruel U.S. sanctions: “Business persons and firms of several countries including China and Russia have already fallen victim to it and suffered huge losses in their economic activities and business management as they were unreasonably put on the sanctions list of the U.S.”
The seizure of a Russian yacht seems especially ill-timed in concert with that appeal, but North Korea is rarely described as a reasonable or polite member of the world community.