North Korea Envoy Warns U.S. Over ‘Outrageous’ Ship Seizure


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UNITED NATIONS — North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations held a rare news conference on Tuesday to warn the United States that its seizure of a North Korean cargo ship could imperil any future disarmament negotiations between the two countries.

The United States Justice Department authorized the seizure of the North Korean ship, the Wise Honest, after having determined that it was used to export North Korean coal in violation of American and international sanctions. The American move, announced on May 9, came amid rising tensions over continued North Korean missile launchings.

In his brief appearance before the United Nations press corps, North Korea’s ambassador, Kim Song, called the seizure “an outright denial of the underlying spirit” of a June 2018 joint statement between North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and President Trump, in which, among other things, North Korea committed to working toward complete denuclearization.

“The United States should deliberate and think over the consequences its outrageous acts might have on the future developments,” the North Korean ambassador said at the news conference. He also reiterated his government’s demand for the return of the North Korean vessel.

The seemingly improved relations between the United States and North Korea that followed the summit in Singapore last year between Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump have worsened considerably in recent months.

A second summit in Vietnam in February ended without an agreement. Since then North Korea has carried out several missile tests clearly meant to express displeasure with the stagnating diplomatic efforts.

Mr. Trump, who has touted his personal connections with North Korea’s leader, has acknowledged that “nobody’s happy” about the state of relations between the two countries.

The North Korean ambassador’s remarks on Tuesday followed a letter he sent to the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, in which he denounced the United States as “a gangster country” for having impounded the ship.

The Wise Honest was originally detained by the Indonesian authorities in April 2018 after it was photographed loading what appeared to be coal at a North Korean port, prosecutors said. The Justice Department then took control of the ship and towed it to American Samoa.

Justice Department officials said the seizure of the Wise Honest was part of an effort to intensify pressure on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program.

Under United Nations sanctions, North Korea is not permitted to export coal or import oil, among other commodities. But officials say smuggling is rampant. In the past, the United States has sought to blacklist certain ships determined to be in violation of sanctions, but, before the Wise Honest, had never seized one.

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