US seizes North Korean cargo ship for violating sanctions
The Wise Honest, North Korea’s second largest cargo ship, has been confiscated.
The US has seized a North Korean cargo ship which it said was used to violate international sanctions.
The Wise Honest, North Korea’s second largest cargo ship, was initially detained during an April 2018 stop in Indonesia and will be moved to American Samoa, Justice Department officials said.
Officials made the announcement hours after North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles toward the sea, a second weapons launch in five days and a possible signal that stalled talks over its nuclear weapons programme are in trouble.
This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service. John Demers
Justice Department lawyers laid out the case for confiscating the ship in a complaint filed in New York, arguing that payments for maintenance and operation of the vessel were channelled through US financial institutions in violation of American law.
“This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department’s top national security official.
The timing of the complaint was unrelated to the missile launch, US officials said.
The 581ft Wise Honest was used to transport North Korean coal to China, Russia and other countries, generating badly needed revenue to a country that is under UN sanctions because of its nuclear weapons programme.
North Korea sought to disguise the ship’s operations by listing various other countries for its nationality and the origin of its cargo, according to the complaint.
Indonesian authorities intercepted and seized the Wise Honest in the East China Sea a month after it was photographed at the port of Nampo, North Korea, where it took on a load of coal.
The US has prosecuted people and businesses for violating sanctions but has never before seized a North Korean ship. The country will have an opportunity to contest the seizure in court. If the US prevails, it will be able to sell the vessel.
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held two summits focused on the North’s nuclear programme but have made no discernible progress toward a deal that would eliminate its weapons.