North Korea Feels Violated by U.S. Seizure of Ship

The Wise Honest loading coal at Nampo, North Korea, March 14, 2018 (DOJ)
The Wise Honest loading coal at Nampo, North Korea, March 14, 2018 (DOJ)

Published May 21, 2019 6:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

North Korea has warned the U.S. that it has violated its sovereignty by seizing its ship, and the action could affect future developments between the two countries.

North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Kim Song demanded immediate return of the ship. The U.S. impounded the Wise Honest in America Samoa on May 9 saying she was used for coal shipments in violation of U.S. and U.N. sanctions.

Speaking at a news conference held at the United Nations in New York, Kim said: “The United States should deliberate and think over the consequences its outrageous act might have on the future developments. Also the United States must return our cargo ship without delay. We regard it as part of our territory where our sovereignty is fully exercised.

Kim claimed the seizure was illegal under U.N. conventions, which prevent the property of sovereign states being seized by other jurisdictions. “The horrible unilateral sanctions and domestic law which the United States has employed in dispossessing our cargo ship is clearly illegal,” he said.

However, when questioned by reporters, Kim would not say whether or not the Wise Honest was carrying sanctioned materials. A U.N. Panel of Experts’ report has indicated the vessel was carrying coal intended for export to South Korea and was therefore in breach of U.N. sanctions. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the ship has been involved in sanctions breaking behavior since at least 2016 and the seizure is seen as payment for maintenance, equipment and improvements of the Wise Honest that were made in U.S. dollars through unwitting U.S. banks.

Kim said the seizure defied the spirit of a statement by U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after their first meeting in Singapore in June 2018. They pledged to build new ties between their countries and work toward North Korea’s denuclearization. A second meeting between Trump and Kim broke down in February, North Korea has since tested more weapons.