Austrialian detectives followed three men to a desolate, windswept beach on Australia’s southern coast. There they saw a North Korean freighter, maneuvering dangerously close to rocks and coral reefs. Soon, the Washington Post says, a dinghy was approaching shore carrying 110 pounds of almost pure heroin, stamped with the best brand from Southeast Asia’s clandestine drug labs say. Proceeds from the drugs would go to prop up the impoverished North Korean government, officials believe.
The freighter later was captured by Australian special forces. U.S. officials say the case proves their long-standing charge that the North Korean government has operates as a crime syndicate, smuggling drugs and counterfeit money around the world to generate income to keep itself alive. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell says the seizure shows that North Korea “thrives on criminality.”
In another development, the Miami Herald reports that the opium poppy crop, the source of heroin, dropped 25 percent in volume in Colombia and a striking 40 percent in Mexico last year. The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy said the decline in Colombia was due to a U.S.-sponsored herbicide-spraying program. In Mexico, which supplies much of the U.S. West Coast with heroin, the decline has been attributed to manual eradication.
The production decline will most likely result in weaker heroin hitting America’s streets, experts said, meaning addicts will either need more of the drug to sustain their habits or be forced to seek medical help. Some experts cautioned that while the decline in heroin production is a positive step, it could fuel violence. Desperate addicts who run out of money to buy the more-expensive heroin could turn to crime to feed their habits, and a more competitive market could lead to more street violence among dealers, the Herald says.