PYONGYANG, North Korea -- If there was ever any doubt about what happened to the only U.S. Navy ship that is being held by a foreign government, North Korea has cleared it up. It's in Pyongyang, and it looks like it's here to stay.
With a fresh coat of paint and a new home along the Pothong River, the USS Pueblo, a spy ship seized off North Korea's east coast in 1968, is expected to be unveiled this week as the centerpiece of a renovated war museum to commemorate what North Korea calls "Victory Day," the 60th anniversary Saturday of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities in the Korean War.
The ship is North Korea's greatest Cold War prize. Its government hopes it will serve as a potent symbol of how the country has stood up to the great power of the United States, once in an all-out ground war and now with its push to develop the nuclear weapons it needs to threaten the U.S. mainland.
Many of the vessel's crew, who spent 11 months in captivity, want to bring the Pueblo home. But with relations generally fluctuating between bad and dangerously bad, the United States has made little effort to get it back.
The Pueblo incident is a painful reminder of the unresolved hostilities that continue to keep the two countries in what seems to be a permanent state of distrust, despite the truce that ended the 1950-1953 war.
The USS Pueblo, only lightly armed, was attacked and easily captured on Jan. 23, 1968. One U.S. sailor was killed. The remaining 82, including three injured, were taken prisoner. North Korea said the ship had entered its territorial waters; the United States maintained it was in international waters.
On Dec. 21, 1968, Maj. Gen. Gilbert H. Woodward, the chief U.S. negotiator, signed a statement acknowledging that the Pueblo had "illegally intruded into the territorial waters of North Korea" and apologized. Both before and after, he read into the record a statement disavowing the confession.
The hostages were released two days before Christmas 1968.