North Korea has denounced the recent seizure of one of its cargo ships by the United States as an “unlawful robbery” and demanded its immediate return.
The US Department of Justice last week said it had seized a North Korean cargo ship that it accused of illicit coal shipments in violation of United Nations sanctions after it was first detained by Indonesia in April 2018.
In a statement carried on Tuesday, the official Korean Central News Agency reported quoting an unnamed foreign ministry spokesperson that the US had betrayed the spirit of a summit agreement last year between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.
At their landmark summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018, Kim and Trump had agreed to a vague statement calling for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and improved bilateral ties. Their second meeting in Vietnam in February collapsed without agreement.
The foreign ministry statement rejected UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea, which the US cited in impounding the vessel, as a violation of its sovereignty.
“This act is an extension of the US-style calculation of trying to hold us in submission with its ‘maximum pressure’ and is a total denial of the fundamental spirit of the June 12 DPRK-US joint statement,” the spokesperson said, using North Korea’s formal name – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Washington was badly mistaken if it believed it could control Pyongyang with force, the ministry statement said, adding it would keep a sharp eye on future US behaviour.
US officials said the North Korean vessel – known as the “Wise Honest” – was being impounded to American Samoa. The case marked the first time the US had seized a North Korean cargo vessel for allegedly violating sanctions.
The US move came hours after North Korea fired two short-range missiles on Thursday.
The test of the missiles and the firing of a series of projectiles on Saturday were the first missile launches by North Korea since that of an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.