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U.S. House calls for North Korea to return captured USS Pueblo

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A new resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, calls on North Korea to return the USS Pueblo, a U.S. Navy ship it seized 55 years ago and keeps on public display. File Photo by KCNA/UPI
A new resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, calls on North Korea to return the USS Pueblo, a U.S. Navy ship it seized 55 years ago and keeps on public display. File Photo by KCNA/UPI

SEOUL, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives introduced a resolution calling on North Korea to return a navy ship that it seized 55 years ago and now keeps on display as a tourist attraction.

The USS Pueblo and its crewmembers were captured by North Korean ships and fighter jets on Jan. 23, 1968, while on an intelligence collection mission in waters east of the Korean Peninsula.

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The Pueblo is still listed as a commissioned U.S. Navy vessel -- the only one held by a foreign nation.

The House resolution, introduced by Florida Republican Greg Steube last week, "maintains North Korea's seizure of the vessel USS Pueblo and its detention of the crew were in violation of international law."

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"[The] USS Pueblo is the property of the United States government and it should be returned to the United States," it said.

One crewmember, Duane Hodges, was killed during the seizure and the other 82 were held in North Korean captivity for 11 months.

North Korea claimed the spy ship strayed into its territory, but the United States maintains that the Pueblo stayed in international waters.

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The USS Pueblo had "strict orders to remain at all times at a distance more than 13 nautical miles from the nearest point in North Korean territory, in order to avoid any possible incident," the resolution said.

"The United States has no reason to believe the orders were not obeyed," it added.

North Korean state media also remembered the 55th anniversary of the Pueblo's seizure on Monday, calling it "a historic occasion which further highlighted the war victory of heroic Korea."

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"Though many years have passed, media and political and social figures of different countries are still laughing at the 'mightiness' of the American Empire over the Pueblo incident and warning the U.S. not to forget the lesson," an unattributed article in Korean Central News Agency said.

In 2013, North Korea moored the USS Pueblo near the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang and opened it to the public for guided tours.

The Pueblo's crew and their families sued North Korea in 2018 for the "mental and physical abuse" they suffered while being held captive. They were allowed to bring the lawsuit after former U.S. President Donald Trump named North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism in 2017.

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In 2021, a federal district court in Washington awarded $2.3 billion in damages to the crew and family members, among the largest sums ever handed out in a state-sponsored terrorism case.

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