US seizes North Korean ship it accuses of violating sanctions

US seizes North Korean ship it accuses of violating sanctions

US authorities have seized a North Korean ship used to sell coal, allegedly in violation of global sanctions, the first such move by Justice Department officials as they ratchet up enforcement efforts against the regime in Pyongyang.

According to United Nations sanctions monitors, the Wise Honest was transporting 25,500 tons of coal when it was detained by Indonesia in April 2018.

Officials said the vessel was now in USA custody and on its way to American Samoa, and they're seeking a civil injunction against it.

A North Korean cargo ship used to transport coal has been seized by the US for violating worldwide sanctions.

US authorities might have taken action and seized the Wise Honest because they anxious that Indonesia, which has maintained friendly ties with North Korea, was possibly going to return the ship to the North, said analyst Go Myong-Hyun of the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

Demers, in a statement on May 9, said the "sanctions-busting ship is now out of service".

The announcement came hours after North Korea launched a pair of short-range missiles, the regime's second such test in the last week, and it marked an escalation of US government pressure on Pyongyang - even as President Donald Trump has spoken glowingly about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The complaint was filed in US District Court in Manhattan on Thursday by the US attorney's office for the Southern District of NY.

Indonesian authorities detained the ship in April 2018 after it was photographed at a North Korean port, loading onto the ship what prosecutors said appeared to be coal.

This satellite image provided by the Department of Justice shows what the DoJ says is the North Korean cargo ship Wise Honest docked at a unknown port.

Payments for the maintenance of the Wise Honest were allegedly made in USA dollars through unsuspecting United States banks - giving the U.S. authorities the opportunity to mount an unusual civil forfeiture legal action. The move marks an escalation of United States government pressure on Pyongyang, even as President Donald Trump has spoken glowingly about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The captain of the ship was charged in Indonesia with violating that country's maritime laws and convicted, the complaint says.

The Wise Honest is one of dozens of vessels North Korea has apparently used to deliberately evade worldwide sanctions on coal exports and oil imports.

"North Korea doesn't have many big ships it can use for exports. They're talking about negotiating, but I don't think they're ready to negotiate".

If the United States prevails, it could either sell off the ship or the US government could put it to use.

Court papers filed in federal court in NY said shipments by the Wise Honest and other North Korean vessels "provide a critical source of revenue for DPRK-based companies and for the North Korean government". "There is no connection at all between the recent activities of North Korea and our seizure warrant", he said.

The United States and the United Nations increased sanctions on North Korea in 2017, after the country carried out a series of nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

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