North Korea Thanks US for Helping
Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- North Korea thanked the U.S. Navy for assisting one of its cargo ships hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia last month and said the incident was a symbol of cooperation between the governments in Washington and Pyongyang.
The USS James E. Williams came to the assistance of the Taehongdan on Oct. 30 and treated wounded crew members who had fought to regain control of the vessel.
The incident is a symbol of cooperation between the two countries ``in the struggle against terrorism,'' the official Korean Central News Agency said in a statement late yesterday. ``We will continue to render international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.''
North Korea wants the U.S. to remove it from the State Department's list of countries that sponsor terrorism as part of a February agreement to scrap its nuclear program. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week the communist nation is making good progress disabling its Yongbyon nuclear complex and cooperating with U.S. inspectors.
The KCNA report was ``more than a simple thank you note,'' said Paik Hak Soon, a North Korea specialist at the Sejong Institute in Seongnam, South Korea. Kim Jong Il's regime is ``sending a strong political message that it won't ever engage in terrorist acts, and thus wants to be removed from the U.S. list of terrorism sponsors.''
North Korea has been on the list since 1988, after its agents were implicated in the bombing of a South Korean passenger airliner the year before that killed all 155 people on board.
Designation as a state sponsor of terrorism results in sanctions including curbs on economic aid and a ban on arms related sales.
KCNA reports are often critical of the U.S. and demand an end to the presence of ``U.S. imperialist aggression forces'' in South Korea.
The cooperation off the coast of Somalia may help to further thaw relations between North Korea and the U.S., with both countries ``committed to cooperating with each other on denuclearization,'' Paik said.
Somalia has had at least 26 pirate attacks this year, the International Maritime Bureau said Oct. 29.
The waters off Somalia come under the responsibility of the Coalition Maritime Forces, based in Bahrain. The coalition's members include the U.S., U.K., France and Germany.