Game Changer: US Seizes North Korean Vessel for Violating Sanctions

North Korean Merchant Vessel Wise Honest.

While the White House remains tight-lipped, the Assistant Attorney General John Demers informed the American people that the United States has seized a North Korean cargo ship for attempting to break US sanctions by exporting high grade coal out of the Hermit Kingdom.

As the AAG stated to the press, “This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service.”

With the details sparse, the only hard facts out is that the largest cargo ship in the North Korean merchant fleet, the Wise Honest (Korean: Hae Do Ji) was seized by US officials. The only other solid fact released to the public is that the ship was purportedly going to “export coal from North Korea to foreign buyers and haul heavy machinery back in violation of international sanctions,” according to the Department of Justice.

Thus far, it’s unknown to the public if the North Korean vessel was seized on the high seas or in a port facility of an American ally.

It’s also unknown as to who exactly it was who carried out the seizure; the US Navy out of either Yokosuka or Sasebo, Japan; or the US Coast Guard out of one of their homeports either in Alaska or the US territory of Guam (which is actually much closer to the Korean peninsula than Akaska).

As reported by the New York Daily News;

One of North Korea’s largest cargo ships — dubbed the “Wise Honest” — has been seized by the U.S. government for violating sanctions by exporting illegal coal, authorities announced Thursday.

The U.S. government took possession of it through a civil forfeiture made official in documents filed in Manhattan Federal Court.

“Our Office uncovered North Korea’s scheme to export tons of high-grade coal to foreign buyers by concealing the origin of their ship, the Wise Honest. This scheme not only allowed North Korea to evade sanctions, but the Wise Honest was also used to import heavy machinery to North Korea, helping expand North Korea’s capabilities and continuing the cycle of sanctions evasion,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said.

It was the first time the federal government had seized a North Korean cargo vessel. Prosecutors alleged that a North Korean company paid for improvements and equipment purchases for the Wise Honest using U.S. dollars transmitted through unwitting U.S. banks, also violating sanctions.