A North Korean cargo ship, which was seized by the United States, has been towed into the port of American Samoa. The ship was seized under suspicion of having been used to violate international sanctions. Now that the ship is in port, local authorities will board the the ship to conduct an inspection.
The ship, named The Wise Honest, was towed into the port of Pago Pago on May 11th. The trip from Indonesia took about three weeks and the territory of American Samoa was chosen due to "its central strategic location."
The information was released by US Coast Guard public affairs officer, Amanda Wyrick. "We also have a good strong relationship and partnership with the American Samoan government," said Wyrick. "With that being said, we also already have the resources that are able to ensure the security of the vessel but most importantly the Port of Pago Pago."
The Wise Honest was detained by Indonesian authorities in April 2018. Justice Department officials subsequently announced on May 9th that the US had seized the ship. Asked as to how long the ship will be in the territory Wyrick said the US Department of Justice is, "leading the investigation so they will be conducting that. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the ship will be moved." But she said the next destination is unknown. "I do know that Justice Department is going to do the investigation as fast as they can," Wyrick added.
The exact number of US Coast Guard personnel, or people from other federal agencies who have traveled to American Samoa for the investigation, remains currently unknown. "We have a marine and safety security team here from Honolulu," said Wyrick. "We're conducting random patrols, also conducting inspection of the vessel and the Port of Pago Pago, to keep an eye on things such as security breaches or vandalisation of the ship itself."
Officials are also making sure the port is protected, she said. "We especially, in the Coast Guard, we understand the importance of the port. It's a lifeline in getting goods to the islands," Wyrick said. "So we want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to make sure that there's absolutely no disruption to the flow of commerce coming in and out."
An inspection team was dispatched from the US before the ship reached port in Pago Pago. Wyrick noted that an inspection had been conducted before leaving Indonesia and, because the ship has been at sea for three weeks, "it's subject to the elements."
"The inspection of the ship before entering the harbour is to make sure the structural integrity of the boat is still intact. In that way, once we get the thumbs up and the green light and the inspectors deem it safe, then it will enter the port," Wyrick said.
According to AP, the US announced that the ship had been seized just hours after North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles towards the sea. This was the second weapons launch in five days and marks a possible signal that stalled talks over its nuclear weapons programme are in trouble.
American Samoa is located in the South Pacific in the continent of Oceania.