During the night last Monday, the freighter Kang Nam 1 slipped back into port in North Korea, apparently closing one chapter in the ongoing confrontation between that country and other major powers, including the United States. The ship's return raised many questions, but may also have provided a look into what North Korean leaders are thinking.
It may be recalled that U.S. officials believed the Kang Nam 1 was carrying weapons bound for Myanmar, in violation of United Nations sanctions against both countries. A U.S. warship shadowed the ship for many days, but made no attempt to stop and search it. That may have been a disappointment to Pyongyang. It is entirely possible that North Korean leaders wanted to use the Kang Nam 1 to stage some sort of incident they could blame on the United States. It would not surprise us if the ship was not carrying weapons. That might explain why it turned around before reaching Myanmar.
U.S. officials' strategy in dealing with the Kang Nam 1 appears to have been correct. We have suggested that this country should avoid unilateral confrontations with North Korea. Help from China, Russia and other nations should be sought to pressure North Korea into abandoning its arms buildup. To do otherwise could provide a propaganda victory for the North Koreans.