North Korea condemned the United States for seizing one of its cargo ships and urged U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to take “necessary measures” to help stabilize the Korean Peninsula. North Korea U.N. Ambassador Kim Song said in a letter to Guterres that the Trump administration committed “an unlawful and outrageous act” by taking over the ship Wise Honest and moving it to American Samoa.
The Wise Honest, North Korea’s second largest cargo ship, was first detained in April 2018 by Indonesia while transporting a large amount of coal. Ambassador Kim called a news conference at U.N. headquarters on Tuesday, May 21, to further criticize the ship’s seizure. The United States said on May 9 that it seized the ship because it was carrying coal in violation of U.N. sanctions, a first-of-its-kind enforcement action that came amid a tense moment in relations with North Korea.
U.S. Justice Department lawyers laid out the case for confiscating the ship in a complaint filed in New York, arguing that payments for maintenance and operation of the vessel were channeled through unwitting U.S. financial institutions in violation of American law. North Korea’s coal trade itself is also believed to fund the isolated country’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs which the United States is seeking to eliminate.
Last week, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency carried a statement by an unidentified foreign ministry spokesman who accused the United States of betraying the spirit of a summit agreement last June between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.
During that summit, both parties agreed to a vague statement calling for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and improved bilateral ties, but a second meeting between the leaders collapsed in February over mismatched demands in sanctions relief and disarmament.
The U.S. announcement of the seizure of the Wise Honest came hours after North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles toward the sea, the second weapons launch in five days and a possible signal that stalled talks over its nuclear weapons program are in trouble.
Includes reporting from The Associated Press.