Taiwan confiscates North Korean toxins

Geostrategy Intelligence

Week of October 7, 2003

The Republic of China (Taiwan) confiscated 158 barrels of phosphorus pentasulfide, a key ingredient for the production of nerve agent, from the 6,500-ton North Korean freighter Be Gae Hung after it arrived at Kaohsiung Harbor from Thailand on August 7.

It was on a refueling and delivery stopover before continuing onto Nampo, North Korea. U.S. government officials alerted Taiwan of the contents of the freighter and requested intervention.

Ministry of Finance Customs Bureau officials in Kaohsiung inspected the cargo and confiscated the chemical on the basis that it was listed as a strategic high-tech commodity (SHTC) subject to controls. The materials were listed as commodities in transit and North Korea claimed Taiwan had no right to inspect the ship.

Taiwan businesses conduct some trade with North Korea, and North Korean freighters regularly visit Taiwan. In June 2001 Geostrategy-Direct.com witnessed the arrival of the North Korean freighter Ku Ryong at Taiwan's northern Keelung port. A South Korean military source said that the "Ku Ryong is one of the North Korean container ships which come to Taiwan once a month for normal trading."

Taiwan lifted the ban on conducting business with North Korea in 1991, and a North Korean commercial office was reportedly opened in 1997.

Taiwan has had problems with North Korean drug smuggling. Taiwan authorities arrested nine members of a Taiwanese heroin smuggling ring in Keelung in July 2002.

Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) wiretapped the ring's fishing boat the Shun Chi Fa and were surprised to monitor communications between the Shun Chi Fa and an unidentified North Korean naval ship delivering the heroin at sea.

Upon returning to Keelung, CIB agents arrested the men and confiscated 198 plastic bags, totaling 79 kg of heroin valued at U.S. $5.6 million. The packages were marked with red Double Lion Global labels, which indicates the heroin might have come from China's Yunnan Province. However, authorities cited examples of fake Double Lion Global labels being used in other seizures of North Korean heroin.