North Korea tests missile, USA seizes ship

North Korea tests missile, USA seizes ship

One of North Korea's largest coal-hauling vessels has been taken out of service by USA authorities in the first-ever cargo ship seizure related to sanctions violations by Pyongyang.

Last July, the USA filed an action to seize the 17,000 ton cargo ship, called the Wise Honest, after it was stopped in Indonesia and found to be carrying coal, NBC News reported.

It was the first North Korean vessel to have been impounded by America.

The 17,601-ton, single hull bulk carrier ship is one of North Korea's largest carriers, and USA authorities said it was used to illicitly ship coal and deliver heavy machinery to North Korea.

"This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service", Assistant Attorney General Demers said in a news release. -North Korean ties, with North Korea resuming weapons tests that seem meant to force the United States to ease sanctions.

North Korea on Thursday fired two short-range missiles into the sea in the second such weapons launch in less than a week, according to Seoul and Washington.

"This conduct violates longstanding US law and United Nations Security Council resolutions", reads a Justice Department press release.

The ship is now on its way to the American Samoa, according to Geoffrey Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of NY, who spoke to reporters from the Justice Department Thursday.

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After Indonesian authorities intercepted and detained the vessel on or about April 2, 2018, it was discovered that the ship "attempted to hide information about its location, course, speed or other navigational status while in the course of transporting coal from North Korea to Indonesia" by turning off its transponder, according to the Justice Department. To evade sanctions, the ship's operators concealed the origin of its cargo and the countries where it was registered.

This process has never been used to seize a North Korean ship for sanctions violations, but because the DPRK used American banks to finance the ship's upkeep, the U.S. is entitled to take it, according to the complaint, which charges the vessel itself with crimes including money laundering.

Berman said the effort to take control of the Wise Honest already had been underway at the time of North Korea's missile launch.

Indonesia named a South Korean company, Enermax, as the intended recipient of the Wise Honest's coal, which was to be moved ship-to-ship in the port city of Balikpapan on Borneo island.

A U.S. Defense Department spokesman said after the new tests: "We're aware of the reports and monitoring".

The president said he hopes the dialogue between North Korea and the United States continues, but he also added, "I don't think they're ready to negotiate".

United States officials would not say Thursday if Indonesia turned over the vessel. The ship in turn imported machinery to North Korea. The North Korean leader also demanded that all sanctions against his country be ended. The U.S. said Kim was only willing to give up North Korea's main nuclear structure at Yongbyon - instead of complete denuclearization.

When asked by reporters on Thursday whether North Korea's largest cargo ship may be engaged in similar illegal behaviour, department officials said they did not know.

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