Published: Fri, May 10, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

US Seizes North Korean Cargo Ship Over Alleged Sanctions Violations

US Seizes North Korean Cargo Ship Over Alleged Sanctions Violations

The United States on Thursday seized a North Korean cargo ship accused of making illicit shipments of coal, the U.S. Department of Justice said. But U.S. law enforcement officials insisted the two events were not linked.

The North Korean captain of the ship was arrested and charged with violations of Indonesian maritime law, according to the complaint, which says he was convicted by an Indonesian court in November 2018 of "offenses related to improper documentation for the ship".

"This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department's top national security official.

Separately Thursday, U.S. military officials conducted a scheduled launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile from an Air Force facility in California. Under an unusual US civil forfeiture action, the vessel is now in the possession of the United States and is currently approaching US territorial waters heading toward American Samoa, US Justice Department officials said.

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. When the ship travelled to Indonesia, it tried to hide details about its location by disabling its Automatic Identification System.

The ship is part of a fleet of ghost vessels that North Korea has been using to flout sanctions and export millions of dollars' worth of coal.

If North Korea had imported Iskanders from Russian Federation, the report added, "it has an existing capacity to deliver warheads to targets in South Korea with great precision". The ship, known as the "Wise Honest", was first detained by Indonesia in April 2018. The Trump administration has seized the North Korean cargo ship used to supply coal to the isolated nation in violation of global sanctions, law enforcement officials said Thursday, May 9, 2019. However, UN sanctions monitors reported to the council in March that Pyongyang continues to defy the measures "through a massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal". Trump walked away from the summit in Vietnam in February because Pyongyang refused to agree to denuclearize before the USA would provide sanctions relief. The ship also delivered heavy machinery back to North Korea. To evade sanctions, the ship's operators concealed the origin of its cargo and the countries where it was registered.

The U.S. tests a long-range missile in California 10 minutes after the North Korea exercise; Greg Palkot has the details. China and others argued at the time that the sanctions would disproportionately affect ordinary North Koreans and could backfire.

A ship is pictured in this photo released by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of NY. He was speaking of the February meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and American President Donald Trump. "There is no connection at all between the recent activities of North Korea and our seizure warrant", he said. "Nobody's happy about it, but we're taking a good look, and we'll see".

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