In a statement, released via the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesperson accused Washington of committing an “unlawful and outrageous act” for taking possession of its second-largest bulk freighter. The vessel was originally seized in Indonesia last year for allegedly circumventing UN-imposed sanctions on shipping coal. Its handover to the US was announced last week.
The statement said the US had used UN Security Council sanctions resolutions as a reason to rob “our trade vessel” and equated it to a “violent infringement of the sovereignty of our country.” The statement accused Washington of attempting to use “maximum pressure” on North Korea in a bid to bring the country “to its knees.” It added that the seizure was a denial of the “underlying spirit” of last June’s DPRK-US Joint Statement on renewed bilateral relations made by US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore.
“The US should ponder over the consequences of its heinous act,” the official said.
The 17,000-ton Wise Honest cargo ship was detained by Indonesian authorities and handed over to the US Department of Justice last July. However, it was only last Thursday that the vessel began its journey to American Samoa. US officials believe the vessel was also being used to import heavy machinery to the North, allowing it to circumvent sanctions and improve its capabilities.
Tensions between the US and North Korea have been rising in recent months, after February’s second round of denuclearization talks in Vietnam between Trump and Kim failed to make any headway. Pyongyang has since restarted its program of testing rockets and short-range missiles which South Korean President Moon Jae-in said represented Pyongyang’s frustration because “it could not reach a deal in Hanoi.”
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