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US Seizes North Korean Coal Ship, Deploys THAAD In South Korea, Blames The North

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US Seizes North Korean Coal Ship, Deploys THAAD In South Korea, Blames The North

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On May 9th, the US seized a North Korean coal carrier ship called the M/V Wise Honest for violating US sanctions on the country, the Justice Department said in a statement.

The civil forfeiture complaint that led to the seizure of the ship was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director John Brown of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division and Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office.

The 17,061-ton bulk carrier ship, one of North Korea’s largest, was used to illicitly ship coal from North Korea and to deliver heavy machinery to the DPRK.

“Payments for maintenance, equipment, and improvements of the Wise Honest were made in U.S. dollars through unwitting U.S. banks.  This conduct violates longstanding U.S. law and United Nations Security Council resolutions.”

“This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.  “North Korea, and the companies that help it evade U.S. and U.N. 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 enacted by the U.S. and the global community.  We are deeply committed to the role the Justice Department plays in applying maximum pressure to the North Korean regime to cease its belligerence.”

The action marks the first time ever the US has seized a “sanctions-busting” North Korean ship.

“Today’s civil action is the first-ever seizure of a North Korean cargo vessel for violating international sanctions,” said U.S. Attorney Berman.  “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.  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.  With this seizure, we have significantly disrupted that cycle.  We are willing and able to deploy the full array of law enforcement tools to detect, deter, and prosecute North Korea’s deceptive attempts to evade sanctions.”

The move is a clear reaction and warning to North Korea, specifically connected to the latest missile tests and defense units strike drills the country carried out under supervision of Chairman Kim Jong-Un.

“Working with our law enforcement and intelligence partners around the world gives the FBI the ability to interdict illicit activity globally,” said Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney.  “Our counterintelligence efforts are squarely focused on protecting the American people. This seizure should serve as a clear signal that we will not allow foreign adversaries to use our financial systems to fund weapons programs which will be used to threaten our nation.”

The ship was initially detained in April 2018 and held until now.

Almost a year later, the Indonesian government started repatriating the 25 North Korean crew members.

In a document dated April 2 and uploaded onto the UN 1718 committee website sometime in the past few weeks, the Indonesian government reported the crew of the Wise Honest, detained since last year for sailing under a false identity, would be sent home.

“Indonesia has been gradually repatriating the 25 crew members of the Wise Honest vessel, upon the completion of their legal proceedings which were finalized on 19 February 2019,” the report reads.

Authorities also reported that a South Korean company called Enermax was the “final destination/recipient of the coal upon the STS transfer of the coal in Balikpapan.”

North Korean defense units respectively on the Eastern and Western fronts carried out defense unit strike drills under the supervision of Kim Jong-Un.

On the Eastern front on May 4th, “the purpose of the drill was to estimate and inspect the operating ability and the accuracy of striking duty performance of large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons by defense units in the frontline area and on the eastern front and the combat performance of arms and equipment and to more powerfully arouse the entire army to the movement for becoming crackshots with the drill as an occasion and thus put it at combat readiness posture all the time.” Missile launches were part of the drills.

Regarding the Western front on May 9th, “the drill for mobility and assault strike designed to inspect the rapid response of the defence units in the forefront area and on the western front successfully showed the might of the units which were fully prepared to proficiently carry out any operation and combat in the flames of the practical actual maneuvers kindled by the Party.”

The purpose of the drills was to respond to the current situation, which warrants an increased security to protect the sovereignty of the state, the statements also claimed, published by North Korean state outlet KCNA.

Recently, South Korea confirmed that on May 9th, the North launched two short-range missiles in an apparent test.

The missiles were launched at 4:29 p.m. local (3.29 a.m. ET) and 4:49 p.m. local, and flew eastward, reaching flight ranges of 420 kilometers (260 miles) and 270 kilometers respectively, according to a statement from South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs.

Earlier, on April 18th, North Korea tested a new-type of tactical guided missile, also under the supervision of Kim.

US President Donald Trump said that Kim wouldn’t jeopardize the negotiations with the US and that these missile launches do not worry him. MSM, however, attempts to blow them out of proportion.

North Korean outlet KCNA reported that it recently became clear that the US was carrying out a THAAD deployment in Phyongthaek Base in Kyonggi Province in South Korea (the Northwestern-most province).

“Commenting on this, south Korean media and experts say that toward the end of last year THAAD was revealed to have been undergoing tests after being relocated to Songju Base in North Kyongsang Province but it is the first time that the drill in Phyongthaek Base was revealed, adding that the recent deployment sends a pressure message to the north.”

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