USA seizes large North Korean ship used to transport coal

USA seizes large North Korean ship used to transport coal

The vessel was used by North Korea to ship coal to foreign purchasers from 2016 until April 2018, when Indonesia maritime authorities detained it. A representative of Songi also allegedly routed over $750,000 in payments for coal shipments through unwitting US banks.

The United States on Thursday seized a North Korean cargo ship accused of making illicit shipments of coal, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The Justice Department said in a statement that the Wise Honest was used by Korea Songi Shipping Company, which it accused of paying us dollars through unwitting USA financial institutions - in violation of us laws - for improvements, equipment purchases, and service expenditures for the vessel. Whether it worsens those ties could depend on if, as some experts believe, the North continues finding ways to evade the global sanctions on its exports.

North Korea has been the subject of a series of U.S. and worldwide sanctions over Pyongyang's development of nuclear weapons and missile tests. Experts believe coal and other mineral exports help finance the North's weapons industry.

The ship is now on its way to the American Samoa, according to Geoffrey Berman, the USA attorney for the Southern District of NY, who spoke to reporters from the Justice Department Thursday.

Payments to maintain the vessel were reportedly made in American currency routed through unwitting American banks.

But a warrant for the boat's seizure was issued back in July 2018 and the timing of Thursday's announcement was coincidental, according to Berman.

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. To evade sanctions, the ship's operators concealed the origin of its cargo and the countries where it was registered.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has met with President Donald Trump twice since past year to discuss reeling in North Korea's nuclear program in exchange for removing sanctions, but the two sides are at an impasse.

The Wise Honest, which was transporting 25,500 tons of coal worth $2.99 million at the time of its impoundment in Indonesia, tried to avoid detection by illegally registering under the jurisdictions of two countries.

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He also handed over £1.7m to the largely Conservative-backed Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 European Union referendum. Guy Verhofstadt has said he does not "know" if Brexit will go ahead.

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

The launch of the projectiles - identified as short-range missiles by the South Korea military - came as a USA envoy visited Seoul, across one of the world's most heavily militarised borders.

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.

This seizure comes on the same day that North Korea was reported to have launched two projectiles suspected to be short-range missiles.

"This scheme not only allowed North Korea to evade sanctions, but the Wise Honest was also used to import heavy machinery to North Korea", Berman said.

President Donald Trump says he knows North Korea wants to negotiate with the United States but he does not think it is ready to do so.

Two Trump-Kim summits, the most recent in Vietnam in February, have produced no tangible progress toward persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

"The US and South Korean intelligence authority is conducting analysis for additional information", the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. Trump walked away from the summit in Vietnam in February because Pyongyang refused to agree to denuclearize before the US would provide sanctions relief.

Read the full report at Fox News.

If the United States prevails, it could either sell off the ship or the USA government could put it to use.