US Seizes North Korean Cargo Ship Over Alleged Sanctions Violations

Larry Hoffman
May 12, 2019

Mr Berman explained: "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".

Crippling worldwide sanctions have targeted North Korean exports - banning or severely restricting the country's capacity to trade various resources.

USA forces have captured one of North Korea's largest cargo ships, the Wise Honest, accusing the ship of having been involved in hauling coal in violation of worldwide sanctions which the U.S. interprets to forbid them from selling coal overseas.

In that case, investigators are probing whether a Hong Kong corporation may have helped North Korea evade sanctions. The seizure of the vessel, detained last month in Indonesia, comes at a delicate moment between the two countries. It was announced hours after the North Koreans fired two suspected short-range missiles in an apparent sign of trouble for nuclear disarmament talks.

The report said North Korean vessels use advanced evasion techniques like identity theft, unlawful name-changing and sending false signals through a ship's AIS tracking device, which communicates the ship's location to other vessels, satellites and coastal base stations. Prosecutors said the ship was also used to haul heavy machinery into North Korea, including 412,584 kilograms of "steel plate".

According to the Justice Department, payments for maintenance and equipment to the ship were made in USA dollars through "unwitting United States banks".

The ship's captain was charged with violating Indonesian law.

"Large quantities of coal were exported from North violation of United Nations Security Council prohibitions", the 32-page filing said.

The Wise Honest was North Korea's second largest merchant ship and was capable of carrying tens of thousands of tons of cargo.

The vessel, the Wise Honest, was first seized previous year and the USA filed a seizure warrant in July 2018.

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, walk together to their one-on-one bilateral meeting, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, at the Capella Hotel in Singapore.

"When a vessel is sailing internationally it's under the jurisdiction of whatever country's flag it's sailing as".

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.

North Korea's projectiles launches are largely being seen as the country's displeasure at the breakdown of the second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam in February.

In response, North Korea may strongly criticize the United States and conduct more weapons tests. Trump walked away from the summit in Vietnam in February because Pyongyang refused to agree to denuclearize before the US would provide sanctions relief.

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