The Justice Department announced recently that the United States seized a North Korean cargo shipping vessel that violated American law and international sanctions.
Prosecutors said that the ship, Wise Honest, was intercepted and detained by Indonesian authorities in the East China Sea on April 2, 2018.
The vessel, which is one of North Korea’s largest bulk carriers, is currently being transported to American Samoa.
The civil complaint filed on Thursday in Manhattan federal court states that it was photographed at the port of Nampo, North Korea, where it loaded coal and sailed south toward Indonesia.
According to the complaint, North Korea disguised the nationality of the ship and the origin of its cargo.
US officials stated that turning off the automatic signal system which is used to alert other ships of its course and location is a clear act of concealment.
“Our office uncovered North Korea’s scheme to export tons of high-grade coal to foreign buyers by concealing the origin of their ship, the Wise Honest,” said US prosecutor Geoffrey S Berman.
“This scheme not only allowed North Korea to evade sanctions, but the Wise Honest was also used to import heavy machinery to North Korea, helping expand North Korea’s capabilities and continuing the cycle of sanctions evasion.”
Apparently, payments for maintenance and operation of the ship were coursed through unsuspecting US banks, which gave the US authorities the opportunity to mount a first-of-its-kind legal action.
“This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service,” Assistant Attorney-General John Demers, the Justice Department’s top national security official, told reporters. He later added: “The US sanctions against North Korea reflect the threat these programs pose to US national security.”
The announcement comes amidst the escalating tension between the US and Pyongyang. This is the first time that the US government has seized a shipping vessel for breaching sanctions.
US officials clarified that the public disclosure had nothing to do with North Korea’s recent missile launch.