The U.S. Justice Department announced that for the first time the United States has seized a North Korean cargo ship it accused of illicit coal shipments in violation of U.S. and United Nations sanctions, .
The ship, known as the “Wise Honest,” was first detained by Indonesia in April 2018. Under an unusual U.S. civil forfeiture action, the vessel is now in the possession of the United States and is currently approaching U.S. territorial waters, a Justice Department official said.
See the the Justice Department statement here
The announcement comes after North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles on Thursday, its second such test in less than a week and an apparent protest by leader Kim Jong Un after U.S. President Donald Trump rejected his calls for sanctions relief at a summit in February.
The Justice Department said in a statement that the Wise Honest was used by Korea Songi Shipping Company, which it accused of paying U.S. dollars through unwitting U.S. financial institutions – in violation of U.S. laws – for improvements, equipment purchases, and service expenditures for the vessel.
The 17,000-ton Wise Honest, which also was used to deliver heavy machinery to North Korea, is one of the Pyongyang’s largest bulk carriers, the U.S. Justice Department said.
According to U.N. sanctions monitors, the Wise Honest was transporting 25,500 tons of coal when it was detained by Indonesia in April 2018 with a estimated value of the cargo of around $3 million.
The monitors said Indonesia reported the ship was registered under both the flags of Sierra Leone and North Korea and that it had found “cargo documents and clearance received from a Russian cargo ship intending to conduct an STS (ship-to-ship) transfer” in waters off the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan.
Russia has repeatedly denied violating U.N. sanctions on North Korea.