North Korea’s UN ambassador Kim Song speaks during a rare news conference at UN headquarters in New York on May 21 2019. Picture: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID
North Korea’s UN ambassador Kim Song speaks during a rare news conference at UN headquarters in New York on May 21 2019. Picture: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID

New York — North Korea stepped up its campaign on Tuesday for the US to return a seized cargo ship belonging to Pyongyang, warning Washington that it had violated its sovereignty in a move that could affect “future developments” between the countries.

North Korea’s UN ambassador Kim Song held a rare news conference at the UN in New York to demand the immediate return of the ship, which the US said earlier in May it had seized over accusations it was used for coal shipments in violation of US and UN sanctions.

“The United States should deliberate and think over the consequences its outrageous act might have on the future developments. Also the United States must return our cargo ship without delay,” Kim said. “We regard it as part of our territory where our sovereignty is fully exercised.”

He said the seizure of the ship, known as the Wise Honest, defied the spirit of a statement by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after their first meeting in Singapore in June 2018. They pledged to build new ties and work towards North Korea’s denuclearisation.

The US justice department said earlier in May that the ship was seized and impounded to American Samoa. The vessel was first detained by Indonesia in April 2018.

A second meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un in Hanoi broke down in February. With talks on denuclearisation stalled, North Korea went ahead with more weapons tests earlier in May. The tests were seen as a protest by Kim Jong-un after Trump rejected his calls for sanctions relief at the Hanoi summit.

The UN Security Council has unanimously strengthened sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

“We will carefully watch every move of the United States,” said Kim.

Kim wrote to UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres on Thursday to ask him to take “urgent measures” over the issue. UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday the letter had been received.

“We’re taking a look at it. The issue of sanctions, the implementation of sanctions, the interpretation of sanctions, is really a matter for the UN Security Council to decide and to discuss,” he said.

Reuters