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Report: U.S. open to negotiation over Wise Honest with North Korea

By Elizabeth Shim
Report: U.S. open to negotiation over Wise Honest with North Korea
The United States could be open to negotiating the release of the Wise Honest, a North Korean vessel, in return for the USS Pueblo (pictured), captured off the North Korea coast in 1968. File Photo by KCNA/EPA

June 19 (UPI) -- The United States and North Korea could be willing to negotiate an exchange of detained ships to resolve tensions following the U.S. seizure of the Wise Honest, according to a recent press report.

Radio Free Asia reported officials at the U.S. State Department told South Korean presidential advisor Moon Chung-in the Trump administration is ready to enter "constructive" negotiations.

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In May, North Korea accused the United States of violating international law following the confiscation of the North Korea-flagged ship, detained in Indonesia since 2018.

After the ship was taken to American Samoa, North Korea's top envoy to the United Nations accused the United States of "sovereignty infringement."

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Constructive negotiations could mean the United States is open to returning the Wise Honest to Pyongyang in return for the USS Pueblo, captured off the North Korea coast in 1968, according to Radio Free Asia.

The possibility of a vessel trade was also raised in May, when White House National Security Advisor John Bolton said the time could be right to discuss the issue of returning the Pueblo.

The U.S. Navy intelligence ship is currently moored along the banks of the Taedong River in Pyongyang, the capital.

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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 the U.S. Department of Justice used a civil forfeiture action to confiscate the property.

North Korea is seeking the return of its ship at a time when it has claimed food shortages are hurting the country.

South Korea said Wednesday it is responding to calls for aid with a 50,000-ton donation of rice to the North, through international organizations, Yonhap reported.

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The policy is being met with mixed reactions among South Korean commenters online. They say the food could be used among the country's most needy population at a time of low economic growth.

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