WASHINGTON – The United States has seized a North Korean naval vessel that violates US law and international sanctions, the Justice Department announced Thursday, a move that is sure to escalate tensions between the two nations due to recent North Korean weapons testing ,
The prosecution said the transport ship, which is honestly being used for exporting North Korean coal, a critical sector of the Nordic economy against which the United States and the United Nations aggressively impose sanctions to force Pyongyang to use its nuclear weapons program break up. The ship was also used to import heavy machinery.
"This sanctioned ship is now out of service," said John C. Demers, head of the Department of Justice's national security department. The lawsuit was filed Thursday at the Federal District Court in Manhattan by the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.
The civil lawsuit came when North Korea's weapons tests in recent days brought about the disarmament-threatened discussions that President Trump opened. Mr. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended their second meeting earlier this year abruptly when Mr. Trump did not relax the sanctions if the North did not dismantle all of its nuclear weapons.
The Ministry of Justice received a seal of seizure approval for the ship in July, officials said that the date of the complaint requesting the vessel's decommissioning had nothing to do with the current tensions between the two countries. On Thursday, the Wise Honest was detained in the US and on its way to American Samoa, the Department of Justice said.
Prosectors said the ship had been used in a North Korean system to export tons of coal abroad and to import heavy goods into machines violating international sanctions.
Three US banks were unintentionally involved in the system, officials said, and sent worldwide payments for maintenance, equipment and improvement of the ship. The Wise Honest's March 2018 coal raised more than $ 750,000 in payments from one of the banks, according to the lawsuit.
"With this seizure, we have significantly disrupted this cycle," said Geoffrey S. Berman, United Attorney in Manhattan.
The Indonesian authorities arrested the ship in April 2018 after being photographed in a North Korean port and loaded onto the ship, which, according to the prosecutors, appeared to be coal. When the ship went to Indonesia, it tried to hide details about its location by deactivating its automatic identification system. The signal of the ship was switched off since August 2017.
The UN Security Council has imposed five sanctions on North Korea since the beginning of 2016, when Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test. At the time, China and others argued that the sanctions could disproportionately affect the normal North Koreans and backfire.