US seizes North Korea cargo ship for violating sanctions

10 May, 2019, 14:55 | Author: Emmett Rice
  • North Korea has fired another projectile its second launch in less than a week South Korea says

The United States says it has seized a North Korean ship that was used to violate global sanctions. It was the second test of the U.S. Minuteman III missile this month and the third this year, though the Air Force maintains that such activity is scheduled years in advance, and not in response to any world events.

The ship's captain, a North Korean national, was charged in the incident for violating Indonesian maritime law and convicted in November 2018.

United Nations sanctions Resolution 2371, adopted in August 2017, bans all North Korean exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood.

"This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service", Assistant Attorney General Demers said in a news release.

U.S. News noted Trump previously has cited North Korea's lull in missile and nuclear tests as evidence that his outreach to the communist regime was proving successful. On Thursday, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to give the US ownership of the vessel through a civil forfeiture action.

Last July the USA initiated the process of seizing the ship, an action legally justified on the grounds that payments to maintain the vessel were made through American banks. When the ship travelled to Indonesia, it tried to hide details about its location by disabling its Automatic Identification System.

The move on May 9 is the first time a North Korean cargo vessel was seized for violating sanctions, said Demers.

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South Korea's military reported that the missiles were fired from North Korea's western area.

Sometime in 2018 or 2019, an Indonesian court approved the sale of the seized coal, and granted an Indonesian national, Eko Setyamoko, the right to sell the commodity. "North Korea, and the companies that help it evade USA and United Nations sanctions, should know that we will use all tools at our disposal - including a civil forfeiture action such as this one or criminal charges - to enforce the sanctions enacted by the USA and the global community". The coal trade itself is also believed to fund the isolated country's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Based on the illicit shipping effort and financing of transactions related to the ship that were put through United States banks, a U.S. judge issued a warrant to seize the vessel on July 17, 2018. It then found that the ship was sailing with two flags - North Korea and Sierra Leone - which is not allowed. At least one member of the crew appears to have died in custody, one has been hospitalized, and three were already deported for medical reasons.

"Our office uncovered North Korea's scheme to export tons of high-grade coal to foreign buyers by concealing the origin of their ship, the Wise Honest", US attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.

Experts say sanctions enforcement is dependent on the willingness of foreign countries to assist in seizures and charges when violations are discovered. At the White House on Thursday, Trump said the USA was looking "very seriously right now" at North Korea's recent military tests.

Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in Hanoi, Vietnam in hopes of another breakthrough in denuclearization.

"Nobody's happy about it".

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