May 9 (UPI) -- 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.
U.S. officials took control of the Wise Honest after determining it was in violation of U.N. sanctions. The vessel initially was detained in Indonesia in 2018.
U.N. sanctions Resolution 2371, adopted in August 2017, bans all North Korean exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers called the Wise Honest a "sanctions-busting ship."
"North Korea, and the companies that help it evade U.S. and U.N. 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 U.S. and the global community," he said.
The Justice Department uses civil forfeiture actions when it seeks to confiscate properties belonging to illicit traders like drug traffickers. The United States can confiscate the ship because payments for the Wise Honest's maintenance were made through U.S. banks, the Trump administration said.
The ship's captain was charged with violating Indonesian law.
But Indonesia released the North Korea coal aboard the ship, an action that is in violation of sanctions, Voice of America reported.
According to VOA, the Wise Honest was carrying $3 million of coal in March 2018, after loading up at Nampo Port in North Korea.
Indonesia did not obtain clearance from the Wise Honest's destination port when it detained the ship, which was sailing under Sierra Leonean and North Korean flags.
Sometime in 2018 or 2019, an Indonesian court approved the sale of the seized coal, and granted an Indonesian national, Eko Setyamoko, the right to sell the commodity.
North Korea continues to evade sanctions through smuggling and other means of channeling goods across its border.
Sanctions were placed on Pyongyang for past missile and nuclear provocations.