North Korean cargo ship seized by US inspected in American Samoa

The vessel is suspected of being in violation of international sanctions.

North Korea cargo ship
North Korea cargo ship

A North Korean cargo ship seized by the US on suspicion of violating international sanctions will undergo an inspection after it arrived at the capital of American Samoa.

The Wise Honest was towed to the port of Pago Pago on Saturday morning and docked that afternoon.

The trip from Indonesia took about three weeks, with the US territory of American Samoa chosen as a destination because of “its central strategic location” in the South Pacific, a US coast guard spokeswoman said.

Amanda Wyrick added: “We also have a good strong relationship and partnership with the American Samoan government.

North Korea cargo ship
The Wise Honest is suspected of being used to violate international sanctions (AP)

“With that being said, we also already have the resources that are able to ensure the security of the vessel but most importantly the Port of Pago Pago.”

Indonesian authorities detained the ship in April 2018. US justice department officials announced on Thursday that the US has now seized the ship.

Asked about how long the vessel will be in American Samoa, Ms Wyrick said the US department of justice is “leading the investigation so they will be conducting that. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the ship will be moved”.

She said the next destination is not yet known. Officials are also making sure the port is protected.

North Korea cargo ship
US coast guard spokeswoman Amanda Wyrick (AP)

“We, especially in the Coast Guard, understand the importance of the port. It’s a lifeline in getting goods to the islands,” Ms Wyrick said.

“So we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can, to make sure that there’s absolutely no disruption to the flow of commerce coming in and out.”

The US government dispatched an inspection team to the ship before it docked in Pago Pago, she said.

Ms Myrick noted there was an inspection conducted before the vessel left Indonesia and, because the ship has been at sea for three weeks, “it’s subject to the elements”. She said investigators had to make sure the structural integrity of the ship is still intact.

US officials made the announcement of the ship’s seizure hours after North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles towards the sea, the second weapons launch in five days and a possible signal that stalled talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme are in trouble.

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