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North Korea accuses U.S. of 'illegal' seizure of cargo ship

Pyongyang claims the United States is trying to push it into submission.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea accuses U.S. of 'illegal' seizure of cargo ship
An undated photo made available by the U.S. Department of Justice shows the North Korean ship 'M/V Wise Honest.’ Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice

May 14 (UPI) -- North Korea's foreign ministry is demanding the United States return the cargo ship it seized last week from Indonesia.

The Wise Honest was carrying illicit shipments of North Korean coal in 2018 when it was detained in Indonesia. The coal was released but the ship stayed at port until last week, when the U.S. Department of Justice used a civil forfeiture action to confiscate the property.

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On Tuesday, Pyongyang's foreign ministry spokesman accused the United States of "illegal seizure," and demanded the immediate return of the Sierra Leonean and North Korean-flagged ship.

"This act of 'maximum pressure' is a continuation of the United States' calculating style, designed to push us into submission," the North Korean foreign ministry said.

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Pyongyang also said the seizure of the Wise Honest is a "denial of the basic spirit of the June 12 joint statement" signed by U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

State-controlled news agency KCNA quoted the foreign ministry as describing the ship's confiscation as a shameless act and a violation of international law.

The Wise Honest was carrying about 25,000 tons of North Korean coal in March 2018, after loading up at Nampo Port in North Korea.

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U.N. sanctions Resolution 2371, adopted in August 2017, bans all North Korean exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood.

Following the decision from the U.S. Justice Department, the ship was towed to American Samoa on Saturday. It is currently docked at a port in Pago Pago.

North Korea is under heavy sanctions, but it has managed to circumvent the restrictions.

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China Daily reported Tuesday China has introduced automated screening lanes at the border city of Hunchun, for the convenience of Chinese tourists.

More than 1,000 Chinese nationals enter North Korea as tourists daily, and about 500 of those individuals used the automated screening lanes on the first day of operations, according to the report.

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