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The US Justice Department has taken possession of North Korea's second-largest freighter, seized in Indonesia previous year for allegedly shipping coal in violation of United Nations sanctions, ratcheting up tensions between the two countries.

US officials took control of the Wise Honest after determining it was in violation of United Nations sanctions.

The vessel was initially impounded in Indonesia in April 2018.

North Korea was engaging in a scheme to export coal to foreign buyers by concealing the origin of the ship, he said, adding that it allowed the country to evade sanctions.

"This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department's top national security official.

The U.S. Air Force on Thursday also tested a Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as part of a scheduled ICBMs test. Officials said the launch was unrelated to current events.

Officials said the vessel was now in US custody and on its way to American Samoa, and they're seeking a civil injunction against it.

Three US banks were unwittingly ensnared in the scheme, officials said, transmitting payments around the world for maintenance, equipment and improvement of the shipping vessel.

The U.S. has prosecuted people and businesses for violating sanctions but has never before seized a North Korean ship.

Korea Songi, reportedly a subsidiary of a company controlled by the North Korean military, is additionally charged with breaking American law by using three different USA banks to pay for the ship's upkeep to the tune of $750,000.

At the time, it was about 2800 miles south of Nampo, North Korea, where it had been photographed a month earlier.

The ship was first confiscated by foreign maritime authorities in Indonesia last April, carrying $3m of coal. The Trump administration has seized the North Korean cargo ship used to supply coal to the isolated nation in violation of worldwide sanctions, law enforcement officials said Thursday, May 9, 2019.

In the case of the Wise Honest, a globe-trotting North Korean salesman arranged the 2018 shipment by holding meetings at Pyongyang's embassy in Jakarta - and then he paid an Indonesian broker through transfers facilitated by JPMorgan Chase, according to bank documents and other evidence gathered by sanctions monitors.

In the KBS interview, Moon also warned North Korea of the risk of a misunderstanding that could result from its actions.

Court papers filed in federal court in NY said shipments by the Wise Honest and other North Korean vessels "provide a critical source of revenue for DPRK-based companies and for the North Korean government".

Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney in NY whose office filed court papers against the ship, said "there's no connection at all" between the missile strikes and the Wise Honest seizure. It's Pyongyang's largest bulk carrier, and the first to be seized by the USA for violating sanctions. The country will have an opportunity to contest the seizure in court. And President Donald Trump said North Korea may not be ready to negotiate, indicating that a negotiated de-escalation of the latest crisis may not be quick in coming.

"Nobody's happy about it".


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