Japan set to raid ship over fake dollars, report says

AP , TOKYO

Sun, Sep 24, 2006 - Page 11

Japanese authorities planned to raid a North Korean ship docked in southwest Japan yesterday over suspicions one of its crew carried counterfeit dollars into the country, a news report said.

A crew member of the 273 tonne trade vessel Kum Gang 1, docked at the southwestern port of Sakaiminato, is suspected of handing at least two fake US$100 bills to a counterpart in Japan, according to Jiji News agency.

The fake bills were part of 300 US$100 bills the crew member gave the counterpart, who works for a Korean Japanese trading company in Japan, the report said, quoting unidentified officials.

Hisanori Ogata, a custom authorities official at Sakaiminato, said he was unauthorized to disclose any information related to ongoing investigations.

Coast guard and prefectural police officials also refused to confirm the report. Jiji did not make clear when the North Korean ship had arrived in Sakaiminato.

Sakaiminato is in Tottori prefecture, about 500km southwest of Tokyo.

The US alleges that the North Korean state sponsors counterfeiting, and has imposed restrictions on a Macau-based bank and several North Korean companies for alleged counterfeiting, money laundering and other illicit activities.

The North's anger over those actions have stalled the six-party talks over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. At the talks, the US, together with China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, have tried to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and aid.

In July, another North Korean trade ferry, the Mangyongbong-92, was banned from entering Japanese waters for six months after Pyongyang test-fired seven missiles.

The Mangyongbong served as a major conduit of trade between the countries, which have no diplomatic relations.