United States officials seize North Korean freighter for defying sanctions

U.S. Attorneys office for the Southern District of New York

U.S. Attorneys office for the Southern District of New York

The announcement came hours after North Korea launched a pair of short-range missiles, the regime's second such test in the last week, and it marked an escalation of US government pressure on Pyongyang - even as President Donald Trump has spoken glowingly about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

National security officials announced Thursday the USA had seized the Wise Honest, a 17,061-ton ship that is registered in North Korea.

The ship is in US custody as of Thursday and heading to American Samoa.

In a statement, senior Justice Department officials called the seizure the first of its kind, and said it was part of the U.S. campaign of "maximum pressure" against the North Korean government.

The Trump administration says it has seized a North Korean cargo ship, the Wise Honest, that USA officials say was used to transport coal in violation of worldwide sanctions.

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

"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".

The missiles were reported to have been launched from the Sino-ri base about 130 miles north of the border with South Korea, days...

American negotiators are now in South Korea for discussions on the current impasse following two high-level summits between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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"We've been pursuing this for months", said Geoffrey Berman, the USA attorney for the Southern District of NY, where prosecutors filed a civil complaint against the ship for violating USA sanctions.

The Wise Honest was intercepted April 2, 2018, while carrying coal from North Korea.

Songi Trading Corporation, a subordinate of the Korean People's Army, used "unwitting US financial institutions" while paying $750,000 for improvements to the Wise Honest - a breach of a longstanding federal law prohibiting USA banks from providing service to North Korean parties, officials said.

In addition, U.S. sanctions have aimed to lock the country out of the global banking system by preventing banks with United States arms from dealing with North Korean businesses. A representative of Songi also allegedly routed over $750,000 in payments for coal shipments through unwitting US banks.

In the KBS interview, Moon also warned North Korea of the risk of a misunderstanding that could result from its actions. The captain was charged with improper documentation, a violation of Indonesian maritime law, and convicted.

The North Korean ship, the Wise Honest, is now in the custody of the US.

"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", he said.

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. "Our military has strengthened surveillance and vigilance in case of a further launch from North Korea, and has maintained a full-fledged posture in close coordination with the United States", the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said. Officials made the announcement just hours after North Korea fired the missiles.

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