North Korea is demanding the immediate release of its cargo ship that was recently seized by the United States. The seizure of the ship, involved in banned coal exports, was described as a “robbery”.
A statement issued by an unnamed foreign ministry spokesperson accused the US of betraying the spirit of a summit agreement last June between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump. The statement, issued on Tuesday May 14th, was carried on North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Kim and Trump are believed to have agreed to a vague statement that called for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula with improved bilateral ties. But a second meeting between the leaders collapsed in February as a result of mismatched demands regarding sanctions relief and disarmament.
The ship’s seizure comes at a delicate time in US-North Korean ties. The North has recently conducted a weapons test that would appear to be aimed at forcing the US to ease the sanctions currently in place.
"The UN Security Council resolutions the United States mentioned as one of the reasons for robbing our trade vessel equate to a violent infringement of the sovereignty of our country and we have been entirely rejecting them," the KCNA statement said. "The United States should carefully consider what kind of consequences their daylight robbery could bring to the political situation and should send back our vessel without hesitation."
Before the US seized the cargo ship, a 177-metre vessel named the Wise Honest, it was first detained by Indonesia in April 2018. The ship was transporting a large amount of coal. It was brought to American Samoa on Saturday, where it will undergo inspections.
According to AP, North Korea is banned from exporting coal as per the UN sanctions that were toughened in 2017. The aim of the sanctions was to punish the North for its increasingly powerful weapons tests that year. Experts believe coal and other mineral exports help finance the North's weapons industry.