On May 9th the US seized a North Korean cargo ship that was used to violate international sanctions, Justice Department officials said. The measure is the first-of-its kind enforcement action that comes amid a tense moment in relations between the two countries.
The “Wise Honest,” North Korea’s second largest cargo ship, was detained in April 2018 as it travelled towards Indonesia. It is now in the process of being moved to American Samoa, Justice Department officials added, according to AP.
Officials made the announcement hours after North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles towards the sea, the second weapons launch in five days and a possible signal that stalled talks over its nuclear weapons programme are in trouble. The public disclosure that the vessel is now in US custody may further inflame tensions, though US officials said the timing of their complaint was not a response to the missile launch.
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 unwitting US financial institutions in violation of American law. The coal trade itself is also believed to fund the isolated country’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.