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North Korean freighter runs aground in Gulf of Mexico

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A North Korean freighter that sailed from Havana has run aground off the Mexican port of Tuxpan on the Gulf of Mexico, officials said.

The ship, Mu Du Bong, sailed from Havana and ran around Monday 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the port access, and there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, said Veracruz state civil defense emergency chief Ricardo Maza.

Maza said the accident happened when the captain was disoriented. He said that the ship was said to be empty but carries 6,500 tonnes so "getting it off the gulf floor will require some specialized work" by the navy and port officials.

It was not immediately known how long it would take to free the North Korean vessel, Maza added.

And environmental officials also were determining if the reef at that location was damaged, he said.

The ship, built in 1983, has its home port in Chongjin, according to online monitor marinetraffic.com. It passed through the Panama canal before its scheduled stop in Cuba, the site reported.

The incident comes a year after another North Korean vessel that had been docked in Havana, before it tried to cross the Panama Canal, authorities there stopped it and found it to be carrying military supplies -- undeclared -- buried under tonnes of sugar.

The North Korean freighter Chong Chon Gang was found to be carrying 25 containers of Cuban military hardware, including two Soviet-era MiG-21 aircraft, air defense systems, missiles and command and control vehicles.

Both Havana and Pyongyang said the weapons were obsolete Cuban arms being shipped to North Korea for refurbishment under a legitimate contract and due to be returned to Cuba.

But neither country explained why the shipment was hidden if it was indeed legitimate.

Panama asked the United Nations to send a mission to determine if the attempted shipment violated a UN embargo on arms deliveries to North Korea.

Panama authorities said in April that a UN team's report confirms that the cargo violated the embargo.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140715/north-korean-freighter-runs-aground-gulf-mexico