Washington, May 10 : The United States has seized a major cargo vessel,the M/V Wise Honest of North Korea for violating United States and United Nations sanctions by illicitly shipping coal from North Korea.The documents revealed multiple shipments of coal delivered from North Korea to China and the ship was scheduled to make a stop in a Russian port, where cargo documents would be prepared to try and conceal the haul’s origin.
The news of seizure comes at a sensitive moment as because North Korea recently fired two short-range missiles when the nuclear disarmament talks between Pyongyang and Washington have stalled following the failure of the Hanoi summit in February.
The 17,061 -tonne ship, was used to haul valuable coal from North Korea that was sold in other countries, including China and to import heavy machinery to Pyongyang, according to the Justice Department. The US and the United Nations have said that North Korea has used illicit sales of its coal to fund the country’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program.
“Our office uncovered North Korea’s scheme to export tonnes of high-grade coal to foreign buyers by concealing the origin of their ship, the Wise Honest,” US lawyer Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.
“This scheme not only allowed North Korea to evade sanctions, but the Wise Honest was also used to import heavy machinery to North Korea,” Berman added.
According to UN sanctions monitors, the Wise Honest was transporting 25,500 tonnes of coal when it was detained by Indonesian maritime authorities in April 2018 and a US judge in July of that year issued a warrant authorizing the seizure of the ship.
The UN report estimated that the value of the ship’s coal cargo was around three million dollars.
“This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service,” John Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a statement.
The Wise Honest was North Korea’s second largest merchant ship and was capable of carrying thousands of tons of cargo. Prosecutors said the ship was also used to haul heavy machinery into North Korea, including 412,584 kilograms of “steel plate.”
The ship is currently on its way to the American Samoa, according to Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who spoke to reporters from the Justice Department.
Berman said the ship was “recently taken into custody” but declined to provide an exact date for the transfer of custody.
Berman denied that the timing of the unsealing of the seizure warrant had anything to do with the deterioration of nuclear trade talks between the US and North Korea, and the recent launched projectiles by Kim Jong un.
“There is no connection at all between the recent activities by North Korea and the unsealing of our seizure warrant. We have been pursuing this for months as indicated in the complaint,” Berman said.