North Korea demands return of US-seized cargo ship

H.R. McMaster a former national security adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump responds to an interview with The Asahi Shimbun

The North Korean Foreign Ministry on Tuesday accused Washington of complete disregard of bilateral arrangements "to build new relations" following a recent seizure of a North Korean cargo ship by the U.S. forces.

The move was an "extension of U.S. calculation" to bring Pyongyang to its knees through maximum pressure, he said.

The ship, the Wise Honest, was first impounded in Indonesia in April 2018.

This is the first time the United States has seized a North Korean ship for breaching sanctions and comes amid worsening relations between the two countries.

The Wise Honest was carrying about 25,000 tons of North Korean coal in March 2018, after loading up at Nampo Port in North Korea.

It would be the "biggest miscalculation" if the United States believes it can control the North with force, the statement added.

The country's state news agency, KCNA, accused the U.S. of betraying the spirit of an accord signed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore past year.

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United States officials said the North Korean vessel - known as the "Wise Honest" - was being impounded to American Samoa.

The test of two short-range missiles on Thursday and the firing of a series of projectiles on Saturday were the first missile launches by the North since it tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in November 2017. Their second meeting in Vietnam in February collapsed without agreement.

The U.S. announced last week that it had seized the ship and accused the North Koreans of using it to deliver illegal coal reserves to the country, violating sanctions.

U.S. officials have stressed that the seizure announcement had nothing to do with the tests.

The ship arrived this week at the port of Pago Pago in the US territory of American Samoa.

But South Korea's President Moon Jae-in called the recent weapons tests a calibrated protest against Washington in the wake of the summit's breakdown and the North still wants to negotiate.

Experts believe coal and other exports help finance the North's weapons industry.

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