US Secretary of State John Kerry
US Secretary of State John Kerry Reuters

When pressed by reporters to condemn the Iranian act of opening fire on and seizing a Marshall Islands ship in international waters on Tuesday, US State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke refused to condemn the blatant aggression and flaunting of international maritime law.

Asked how the US defines the attack, whether as an act of piracy or violent aggression, Rathke said he could not define it because the US is still "collecting information."

"This is underway. I’m not going to apply an adjective to it right now," said Rathke.

When queried by journalists as to whether he would condemn the violent naval aggression, he again skirted a direct response, saying "we are gathering more information, I don't have further reaction at this point."

Iranian naval ships demanded the Maersk Tigris cargo ship enter Iranian waters to be boarded as it was sailing in an internationally recognized shipping lane in the Strait of Hormuz.

The ship, which is said to be largely owned by American investors even though no Americans were on board, submitted after the Iranian ships fired warning shots across its bow.

International treaties obligate the US to react to any attack on the Marshall Islands as if it was against America.

"The United States has the full security responsibility over the islands and for the defense of the islands, this is what our treaty says," Junior Aini of the Marshall Islands Embassy in Washington DC told Bloomberg following the incident.

While the US continues to weigh its response, the USS Farragut has been deployed to the Maersk Tigris's location in response to its distress call, reports the Washington Free Beacon.