United States seizes North Korean ship it accuses of violating sanctions

US seizes North Korean cargo ship for violating sanctions

US authorities announced on Thursday that they have taken control of a coal ship North Korea was allegedly using to evade worldwide sanctions.

A North Korean ship used to transport coal was seized by the United States after the country violated U.N. sanctions by firing two suspected short-range missiles.

Caught up in the sanctions-evading scheme were unwitting NY and other American banks, one of which provided payments totaling more than $750,000 for the ship's maintenance and improvements, according to the filing.

"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", Assistant Attorney General Demers said. On Thursday, the Wise Honest was in U.S. custody and on its way to American Samoa, the Justice Department said.

Korea Songi, reportedly a subsidiary of a company controlled by the North Korean military, is additionally charged with breaking American law by using three different U.S. banks to pay for the ship's upkeep to the tune of $750,000. "In return, large shipments of heavy machinery were returned to North Korea using the same vessels".

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump talk in the garden of the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam on February 28, 2019. The Indonesian Navy detained the ship, inspected it and discovered a crew of 25 North Koreans along with a cargo hold full of coal. The ship, in what USA officials say was a clear act of concealment, also turned off an automatic signal system meant to alert other ships of its course and location. When the ship travelled to Indonesia, it tried to hide details about its location by disabling its Automatic Identification System.

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

Though the Justice Department obtained a sealed seizure warrant for the ship in July, officials said the timing of the complaint seeking the vessel's forfeiture had nothing to do with the current tensions between the two countries.

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

In addition, USA sanctions have aimed to lock the country out of the worldwide banking system by preventing banks with United States arms from dealing with North Korean businesses.

Last month, a federal judge in the District of Columbia approved a set of subpoenas targeting the financial records of Chinese banks which might show how the North Korean regime has sought to evade sanctions over its nuclear program.

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The ship moved between ports in China and North Korea, and according to a contract referenced in the court documents, was scheduled to make at least one stop in Russian Federation. It's Pyongyang's largest bulk carrier, and the first to be seized by the US for violating sanctions.

Thursday's missile firing came after North Korea carried out a military drill and fired multiple projectiles on Saturday, with at least one believed to be a short-range missile.

Sanctions were placed on Pyongyang for past missile and nuclear provocations.

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.

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