North Korea displays captured US navy ship as war trophy

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North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a New Year's Day speech. KCNA / via REUTERS

This week marks the 50th anniversary of North Korea’s capture of the American Navy ship USS Pueblo, and the authoritarian nation used the opportunity to proudly display the ship as a trophy symbolizing North Korea’s victory against the United States.

The captured spy ship is currently sitting in the frozen waters of the Potong River, where it is displayed as part of the huge Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum complex in the capital city of Pyongyang. Here, thousands of citizens come every day to hear their country’s version of how they defeated the United States during the Korean War that was waged between 1950 and 1953.

North Korea’s official media also declared the anniversary of the ship’s capture as a milestone in the nation’s ongoing struggle against the United States, which manifests today in the dispute over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In its coverage of the anniversary, the state-run news agency broadcasted video clips of a naval officer saying that the USS Pueblo is a symbol of how the U.S. will suffer a “crushing defeat” if it threatens he sovereignty of North Korea.

On board the ship, the bullet holes and shrapnel marks that littered the ship’s metal frame have been freshly painted with bright red, while a crumpled American flag sits defeated inside a glass cage on the bridge. Along the walls of the cabins hung copies of the American sailors’ confessions.

The capture of the ship came in 1968 at the height of the Cold War. North Korea claims that the ship entered its territorial waters when it was attacked and captured by North Korean vessels and fighter planes. According to the United States, the attack took place not in North Korean territory but in international waters.

The 82 surviving sailors of the USS Pueblo were captured, and they suffered starvation and torture before they were released almost a year later.