North Korea calls USA ship seizure a 'robbery,' demands its return

Clay Curtis
May 14, 2019

North Korea on Tuesday demanded the release of a cargo ship seized by the US on suspicion of breaching United Nations and USA sanctions, the official Yonhap news agency cited Pyongyang state media as saying.

It was the first time a North Korean cargo vessel had been seized by the United States 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.

"The U.S. should think seriously about what consequences its brigandish act will bring about and return our ship without delay", a North Korean spokesperson was quoted by Yonhap as saying.

"Such attitude of the United States is a continuation of attempts to bring us to our knees with its "maximum pressure" and completely ignores the basic spirit of the two countries' joint statement of June 12 [2018], which contains an agreement to build new relations between North Korea and the United States", the ministry said in a statement, published by the Korean Central News Agency.

The American Justice Department said last week that it had taken possession of North Korean-registered vessel M/V Wise Honest in American Samoa.

The US move came hours after North Korea fired two short-range missiles on Thursday.

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Despite last year's accord, a second Trump-Kim Jong Un meeting in February 2019 proved to be less fruitful as talks broke down without a deal.

The test of the missiles and the firing of a series of projectiles on Saturday were the first missile launches by North Korea since that of an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.

Trump insisted he would not ease sanctions until North Korea agrees to abandon its entire nuclear weapons program.

Under a series of USA and United Nations sanctions, North Korea is prohibited from a broad range of economic activities, including exports of materials such as coal.

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

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