Tuesday, 02 June, 2020

North Korea describes USA impounding of vessel as 'robbery'

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Deanna Wagner | 14 May, 2019, 22:14

North Korea on Tuesday demanded the US returned a cargo ship used to transport that was seized in violation of worldwide sanctions against the rogue regime, calling it a "robbery".

The North Korean foreign ministry said in a statement that it rejected the United Nations security resolutions against their country, which the US used as reasoning to take control of the ship and demanded a return of the vessel.

On Tuesday, Pyongyang's foreign ministry spokesman accused the United States of "illegal seizure", and demanded the immediate return of the Sierra Leonean and North Korean-flagged ship.

The Wise Honest was carrying illicit shipments of North Korean coal in 2018 when it was detained in Indonesia.

It was the first time a North Korean cargo vessel had been seized by the USA for sanctions violations, after several years of high seas cat-and-mouse games in which Korean shippers disguised vessels, used false flags and turned off their tracking transponders to avoid discovery.

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In a thinly veiled threat, it added: "The US must realize the effect of its gangster-like actions. and must return our ship without delay".

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To investigate the case, the Jammu and Kashmir Police constituted a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the incident. At least 70 people were injured after the violent protests erupted over the rape of a three-year-old girl in Kashmir .

US authorities said the ship, the Wise Honest, was captured after it attempted to hide its country of origin and was now in their custody.

In a statement, released via the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesperson accused Washington of committing an "unlawful and outrageous act" for taking possession of its second-largest bulk freighter.

North Korea is sanctioned under multiple UN Security Council resolutions for its nuclear and missile programmes.

The Trump administration announced that it would seize the ship hours after North Korea fired short-range missiles on Thursday.

But South Korea's President Moon Jae-in called the recent weapons tests a calibrated protest against Washington in the wake of the summit's breakdown and the North still wants to negotiate.

US officials believe North Korea uses the money from coal sales to fund its weapons program.

The cargo ship arrived in American Samoa on Monday.