"A North Korean cargo vessel used to transport coal was seized in violation of global sanctions against the rogue regime, the U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday, just hours after the hermit kingdom fired two suspected short-range missiles", reports Fox News.
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.
"North Korea, and the companies that help it evade United States and UN sanctions, should know that we will use all tools at our disposal - including a civil forfeiture action such as this one or criminal charges - to enforce the sanctions". The seizure of the vessel, detained last month in Indonesia, comes at a delicate moment between the two countries.
The incident was announced hours after North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range, or distance, missiles on Thursday. North Korea has also withdrawn from talks about its nuclear program with the US since a meeting in Vietnam.
Justice Department lawyers laid out the case for confiscating the ship in a complaint filed in NY, arguing that payments for maintenance and operation of the vessel were channeled through unwitting US financial institutions in violation of American law.
"My best guess is that proceeds from these coal sales are never actually going to North Korea, but they're being used to buy things internationally which then get back to North Korea - according to the complaint - on the same vessel", he added.
The UN Security Council passed a resolution in 2017 banning North Korea from exporting coal.
During an event at the White House, Trump said USA authorities were looking at the latest projectile launches "very seriously". The ship has been operated by the Korea Songi Shipping Company since November 2016 - which, according to the complaint, is a subordinate of the Korean People's Army. The ship, in what US officials say was a clear act of concealment, also turned off an automatic signal system meant to alert other ships of its course and location.
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The "Wise Honest" is North Korea's second largest cargo ship.
This undated photo released by the U.S. Justice Dept, Thursday, May 9, 2019, shows the North Korean cargo ship Wise Honest. It was not immediately clear what happened to the rest of the crew, which at least at one time totalled two dozen members.
United Nations sanctions on the North have intensified since 2016, because the North conducted a series of high-profile nuclear and missile tests meant to build a nuclear missile capable of striking the US mainland.
Experts say sanctions enforcement is dependent on the willingness of foreign countries to assist in seizures and charges when violations are discovered.
Trump told reporters Thursday that the U.S.
The ship is now on its way to the American Samoa, according to Geoffrey Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of NY, who spoke to reporters from the Justice Department Thursday. The ship had not operated its automatic signaling system since August 4, 2017, according to the Justice Department.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump talk in the garden of the Metropole hotel during the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam on February 28, 2019.