Published: Tue, May 14, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

North Korea demands return of detained cargo ship

North Korea demands return of detained cargo ship

North Korea on Tuesday hit out at the United States seizure of one of its cargo vessels, accusing Washington of defying the "underlying spirit" of their new diplomatic relationship and trying to bring Pyongyang to its knees.

The move was an "extension of USA calculation" to bring Pyongyang to its knees through maximum pressure, he said.

The ship, called the "Wise Honest", was detained by Indonesia in April 2018.

It was the first time a North Korean cargo vessel had been seized by the United States for sanctions violations, after several years of high seas cat-and-mouse games in which Korean shippers disguised vessels, used false flags and turned off their tracking transponders to avoid discovery.

Washington was badly mistaken if it believed it could control Pyongyang with force, the ministry statement said, adding it would keep a sharp eye on future USA behaviour.

Following the decision from the U.S. Justice Department, the ship was towed to American Samoa on Saturday.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump held an unprecedented summit on June 12 a year ago in Singapore and pledged to establish new relations and a peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

The move further strained ties between North Korea and the United States, which appear to be re-entering a period of hostility after a year of nuclear talks.

North Korea is sanctioned under multiple UN Security Council resolutions for its nuclear and missile programmes. The U.S. announcement of the ship seizure came hours after the North fired two short-range missiles on Thursday. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump expressed their commitment for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula at their first bilateral meeting in Singapore last June.

North Korea has carried out two weapons tests in the past weeks in what is widely seen as an attempt to increase pressure on the US.

The ship arrived this week at the port of Pago Pago in the US territory of American Samoa.

US officials believe North Korea uses the money from coal sales to fund its weapons program.

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