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U.S. spy ship Pueblo may be coming home
A Korea WebWeekly Feature Article
3/18/2003



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Kim Jong Il had planned to return the spy ship captured in 1968 to Bush - but not any longer. Bush's personal animosity toward him changes Kim's mind. North Korea captured the USS Pueblo in the waters of Wonsan on January 23, 1968. Pueblo was on a spy mission for the US National Security Agency at the time. Although the ship's crew were repatriated after a lengthy negotiation, North Korea kept the ship as a war trophy.

The ship was moored in the Wonsan harbor for 30 years until October 1999 when she sailed around the southern tip of South Korea and reached the very spot near Pyongyang where another American ship, the General Sherman (formerly the USS Princess Royal of the US Navy) was sunk in 1866. The ship became a 'must see' tourist attraction and a classroom for instilling hate-America sentiment.

The ship was moved again to Nampo a few days before Bush's envoy James Kelly showed up in Pyongyang on October 3, 2002. Kim Jong Il had planned to return the ship to the United States as a goodwill gesture to Bush. The ship symbolized the long hostility between the United States and North Korea, and the homecoming of the ship would have symbolized the termination of the hostility and start of a new chapter in the US-North Korea relationship, just as the General Sherman was repaired and returned to the United States in the 19th Century.

Whereas, the ship symbolizes the "US aggression and the the victory of the Korean People's Army" for North Korea, the ship represents "the honor of America and the record of those who proudly served our nation." The US Navy wants the ship back but it is powerless to grab the ship. When the ship openly sailed through the Tzushima Strait on her journey from Wonsan to Pyongyang, the US Navy could not seize her for fear of starting another war in Korea.

It is believed that North Korea had informed the Bush administration of its intend to repatriate the ship and there had been informal contacts between the two governments on the mechanics of the ship's return home. A former US ambassador to Seoul and other influential Americans were involved in the secret negotiation for the return of the ship. The former crew members of the ship saw a glimmer of hope of seeing their beloved ship returned home at last. But the 'nuclear crisis' created by Bush's hard-line rhetoric smashed their hope - probably for a long time to come.

* The above viewpoint is not necessarily that of AFAR.

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