N Korea says ship seizure by United States illegal, demands immediate return

H.R. McMaster a former national security adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump responds to an interview with The Asahi Shimbun

The North Korean Foreign Ministry on Tuesday accused Washington of complete disregard of bilateral arrangements "to build new relations" following a recent seizure of a North Korean cargo ship by the USA forces.

The 17,061-ton vessel, called the Wise Honest, is one of North Korea's largest bulk carriers used to illicitly ship coal from North Korea and deliver heavy machinery to the country, officials said.

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.

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.

U.S. officials said the North Korean vessel - known as the "Wise Honest" - was being impounded to American Samoa.

It added that the seizure was a denial of the "underlying spirit" of last June's DPRK-US Joint Statement on renewed bilateral relations made by US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore. The case marked the first time the U.S. had seized a North Korean cargo vessel for allegedly violating sanctions.

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North Korea is sanctioned under multiple UN Security Council resolutions for its nuclear and missile programmes, and lifting of some of the measures was a key demand at a second Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi in February that ultimately broke down without a deal. North Korea launched short-range "projectiles", while the USA tested intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The statement accused Washington of attempting to use "maximum pressure" on North Korea in a bid to bring the country "to its knees".

In a statement in the official Korean Central News Agency, North Korea's foreign ministry warned of unspecified "consequences" in response to the US seizure of the vessel.

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

North Korea is banned from exporting coal under United Nations sanctions in 2017.

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