North Korean ship, the Wise Honest, seized by US
North Korean ship, the Wise Honest, seized by US REUTERS

The United State Justice Department announced on Thursday that it seized a North Korean cargo ship which violated international sanctions. The announcement came on the heels of the report that North Korea had fired multiple ballistic missiles into the ocean earlier on Thursday, its second weapons launch in a week, although US officials claim that the seizing of the ship was not related.

This marks the first time that the US has seized a North Korean ship for violating international sanctions and could lead to an escalation of conflict between the two countries

US Justice Department officials claim that the Wise Honest, the second largest North Korean ship, was used to export coal in violation of international sanctions to China, Russia, and other countries It also said that the ship carried heavy machinery on return trips which could be used in the country's nuclear programs.

The ship is now being moved to US territory by the US Coast Guard and marshals. “This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service,” said US Assistant Attorney General John Demers.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution in 2017 which banned North Korea from exporting coal.

The Wise Honest was originally detained over a year ago by Indonesia in the Makassar Strait, where it was inspected and found to be lacking proper ship documentation. Ultimately, it was discovered that the ship was owned by a North Korean shipping company controlled by the military.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman told reporters that payments for the ship were transferred through US banks in violation of US law. North Korea tried to conceal the ship's origin by false documentation and also turned off a signal system used by ships to alert other ocean vessels of its location and route.