03 May 2013

Japan coast guard vessel sold to pro-N Korea company without ‘data wipe’

A decommissioned Japanese Coast Guard vessel was recently sold to a demolition company whose owner is a regional member of a Pyongyang-friendly organization, without confirmation that the information in its navigation systems have ben wiped clean. With tensions escalating in the region as North Korea continues with its bellicose attitude, any military information left out in the open is a security breach, especially as the vessel has now been totally scrapped by the demolition company.

The 106-ton Takachiho coast guard vessel was decommissioned in 2011, and then it was handed over to a scrapper run by a senior member of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (commonly known as Chongryon), an organization known to be friendly to North Korea. It was then discovered that there was no confirmation from the Japanese Coast Guard regional command that the data in the ship’s navigation system had been erased. It is not clear what sort of navigational data the device contained and how much of it was left, but the 10th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Kagoshima admitted that no confirmation was on record for deleting the said data. It also added that in light of the current regional situation with North Korea, such a thing should not have been allowed to happen. Kazuhisa Ogawa, a military analyst and professor at the University of Shizuoka, pointed out the same, saying, “From a national security point of view, not only navigation records of a border security agency, but also any vessels or shipboard devices should not be sold to a person related to a nation having no diplomatic relations with Japan.”

The navigation system of the ship was fairly modern, capable of storing a large number of the ship’s coordinates. Depending on the settings, a record of 6,000 locations over about 250 days worth of navigation can be saved. To make the problem worse, the Japanese Coast Guard admitted that there were no hard and fast rules that were set for erasing navigation data of patrol vessels when decommissioning patrol vessels. According to them, there might be a possibility that this is not the first time this situation has happened. The head of the demolition meanwhile acknowledged that he is a senior member of Chongryon in Kagoshima prefecture, but said, “It has nothing to do with the scrapping of the vessel.”

Source: japan daily press. 29 April 2013

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