North Korea at UN warns of consequences over ship seizure

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday warned the United States that its seizure of a cargo ship could have consequences on the future of US-North Korean relations.

Ambassador Kim Song told a rare news conference that Pyongyang was closely watching "every move" by the United States following the US seizure of the Wise Honest ship.

"The United States should deliberate and think over the consequences its outrageous acts might have on the future development," Kim said.

The ambassador called on Washington to immediately return the ship, describing the seizure as an "outright denial" of commitments made by President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to improve relations.

The United States announced on May 9 that it had impounded the state-owned Wise Honest, arguing that it was being used to export North Korean coal, in violations of UN sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

It was the first time that the US had seized a North Korean vessel after several years of high seas cat-and-mouse games in which North Korean shippers renamed their vessels, used false flags and turned off their tracking devices to avoid detection.

The seizure came amid heightened tensions after Pyongyang conducted weapons drills involving short-range missiles, and with nuclear talks deadlocked since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Trump and Kim earlier this year.

Asked to elaborate on the impact of the ship seizure on relations, the North Korean ambassador repeated that Pyongyang was closely watching the US response.

"Everything depends on the United States," he said. "We shall watch every move (by) the United States with regard to these issues."

Trump and Kim have held two summit meetings to address the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

A first meeting in June last year ended with a vague commitment to denuclearize the Korean peninsula but the second summit in Hanoi collapsed over what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in exchange for relief from sanctions.

The United States insists that sanctions will be lifted after North Korea has fully scrapped its weapons programs.

The North Korean ambassador wrote to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week to ask for "urgent measures" to return the Wise Honest, but the UN spokesman made clear the matter should be resolved bilaterally.