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US Seizes Large North Korean Ship Used to Transport Coal

US Seizes Large North Korean Ship Used to Transport Coal
North Korean coal transport ship Wise Honest (AP)

By    |   Thursday, 09 May 2019 01:03 PM

The Trump administration says it has seized a North Korean cargo ship that U.S. officials say was used to transport coal in violation of international sanctions.

The Justice Department announced the seizure Thursday of the Wise Honest. The ship was detained by Indonesia last month with two dozen crew members on board.

U.S. officials say payments for maintenance and equipment for the ship were made unwittingly in American dollars through U.S. banks.

The announcement was made at a time of tension between the two countries.

It came hours after North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles in its second weapons launch in five days.

President Donald Trump said "nobody is happy" at the missile launches, which South Korea said were likely a protest by Pyongyang against Trump refusing to ease economic sanctions on the North.

The United States has given no sign of willingness to budge on sanctions and on Thursday the Justice Department announced the seizure of a North Korean cargo vessel it said was involved in the illicit shipping of coal.

North Korea has effectively pulled back from engagement with Washington since a summit between leader Kim Jong Un and Trump in February fell apart without agreement on U.S. demands for the dismantling of Pyongyang's nuclear program and Kim's demands for relief from punishing sanctions.

"The relationship continues ... I know they want to negotiate, they're talking about negotiating. But I don't think they're ready to negotiate," Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday.

Less than a week ago, Kim oversaw the test-firing of multiple rockets and a missile and the latest tests coincided with a visit to the South Korean capital by U.S. special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun.

The two missiles fired on Thursday went east from the northwestern area of Kusong, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

They covered distances of 420 km (260 miles) and 270 km (168 miles) and reached an altitude of about 50 km (30 miles) before falling into the sea, they said.

Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn said: "We're aware of the reports and monitoring."

"North Korea seemed to be discontented it could not reach a deal in Hanoi," South Korea's President Moon Jae-in told South Korean broadcaster KBS, referring to the summit in Hanoi with Trump.

South Korea's Moon said that even if the missiles fired on Thursday were short range, they could still violate U.N. resolutions barring North Korea from developing its ballistic missile force.

Even so, Moon said he saw the tests as a sign that North Korea wanted to negotiate, and said he planned to push for a fourth inter-Korean summit with Kim.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who earlier cut short a European trip to return to Washington for meetings on Iran, was also due to have discussions on North Korea after learning of the launches, a senior U.S. State Department official said.

Pompeo was due to meet on Thursday with Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who is expected to raise Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's hopes to set up a summit with Kim.

This report includes material from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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The Trump administration says it has seized a North Korean cargo ship that U.S. officials say was used to transport coal in violation of international sanctions.The Justice Department announced the seizure Thursday of the Wise Honest. The ship was detained by Indonesia last...
US, United States, North Korea, Coal Ship
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2019-03-09
Thursday, 09 May 2019 01:03 PM
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