Japan's Coast Guard sold a decommissioned patrol vessel to a salvage yard run by a senior member of a pro-North Korea non-profit, without checking that the ship’s computer systems had been wiped, Tokyo’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported Monday.
The 106-ton vessel Takachiho was decommissioned in 2011, and sold for scrap to a company run by a regional leader of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), a pro-Pyongyang organization.
But the newspaper reports that the Coast Guard’s regional headquarters never confirmed whether the vessel’s navigation data was deleted before it was scrapped.
Although weapons and other equipment were removed before the vessel was handed over to the scrap yard owners, the navigation data recording system was left installed on the bridge.
The system records a vessel’s location at regular intervals and, “information regarding operational [deployment] patterns of the [Takachiho] could have been obtained by some party,” an official from the Coast Guard’s 10th regional headquarters in Hyuga told the paper.
In February, the national leadership of the Coast Guard circulated guidance to all regional headquarters saying that thorough checks must be conducted whenever vessels are sold to make sure navigation data have been wiped clean.
The chairman of the demolition firm that bought the Takachiho told The Yomiuri Shimbun that his membership in Chongryon had nothing to do with the scrapping of the vessel.
“We did not confirm the disassembly of each device, but I’m sure that we scrapped all of them. I don’t know if the vessel was equipped with a radar or other devices, but it was surely scrapped,” he said.