US seizes N Korean ship for violating sanctions

Last Updated: Fri, May 10, 2019 06:29 hrs

[USA], May 10 (ANI): The US on Thursday said that it seized a North Korean cargo vessel for violating international sanctions, including those slapped by Washington.

The ship, identified as 'Wise Honest, is a 17,061-ton, single-hull bulk carrier ship registered in North Korea, according to a statement by the Justice Department.

The vessel was used to illicitly ship coal from North Korea and to deliver heavy machinery to the isolated communist nation.

"Payments for maintenance, equipment, and improvements of the Wise Honest were made in US dollars through unwitting US banks. This conduct violates longstanding US law and United Nations Security Council resolutions," the statement said.

"This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service. North Korea and the companies that help it evade US and UN sanctions should know that we will use all tools at our disposal -- including a civil forfeiture action such as this one or criminal charges -- to enforce the sanctions enacted by the US and the global community, said Assistant Attorney General Demers.

US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said, "Today's civil action is the first-ever seizure of a North Korean cargo vessel for violating international sanctions Our Office uncovered North Korea's scheme to export tons of high-grade coal to foreign buyers by concealing the origin of their ship, the Wise Honest."

"This scheme not only allowed North Korea to evade sanctions, but the Wise Honest was also used to import heavy machinery to North Korea, helping expand the country's capabilities and continuing the cycle of sanctions evasion," he added.

The vessel, which was originally seized by Indonesian maritime officials in April last year, has been "taken into custody". A US judge had issued a warrant authorising the ship's seizure in July of that year.

Earlier in the day, Trump said that "nobody was happy" on North Korea's latest launch of projectiles within this week and they are looking at the matter "very seriously."

"We're looking at it very seriously right now. They were smaller missiles. Short-range missiles," The Hill quoted Trump as saying at a press conference in the White House.

North Korea on Thursday fired fresh unidentified projectiles in the eastern direction from the Sino-ri area, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). It came five days after the secretive communist country had fired multiple short-range projectiles into the East Sea from Wonsan.

"Nobody's happy about it, but we're taking a good look. The relationship continues, but we'll see what happens. I know they want to negotiate, they're talking about negotiating. I don't think they're ready to negotiate," Trump said in an apparent downplaying of achieving a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea.

Trump also hoped that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would not "blow" an opportunity of making North Korea economically strong in exchange for dismantling its nuclear weapons programme.

"North Korea has tremendous potential economically and I don't think he's going to blow that," he said.

North Korea's projectiles launches are largely being seen as the country's displeasure at the breakdown of the second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam in February.

The meeting ended abruptly without any joint statement issued as the two sides reportedly failed to resolve their differences on sanctions waivers.

While North Korea has asked for relief in sanctions in exchange for the steps it has taken towards denuclearisation, the US has remained cemented in its resolve to only grant sanction waivers once Pyongyang has completely shut down its nuclear weapons programme. (ANI)