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(2nd LD) N. Korea demands release of cargo ship seized by U.S.

All Headlines 16:15 May 14, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 9-10)
By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, May 14 (Yonhap) -- North Korea demanded on Tuesday that the United States release a cargo ship seized on suspicions of violating U.N. sanctions, denouncing the seizure as an "outright denial" of the spirit of last year's first summit between leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

"The latest U.S. act constitutes an extension of the American method of calculation for bringing the DPRK to its knees by means of 'maximum pressure' and an outright denial of the underlying spirit of the June 12 DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement that has committed to establish new bilateral relations," a spokesperson for the North's foreign ministry said.

"The U.S. should ponder over the consequences its heinous act might have on the future developments and immediately return our ship," the spokesperson said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The North also said that the time when the "U.S. held sway over the world at its own free will is gone long ago, and it would be a biggest miscalculation if the U.S. thought that the DPRK is among the countries where the American-style logic of 'strength might work for."

"We will carefully watch every move of the United States hereafter," the statement said.

The U.S. Justice Department said last week that the 17,061-ton Wise Honest, one of the North's largest bulk carriers, was intercepted by Indonesian authorities last year after being loaded with coal in Nampo, North Korea, in violation of sanctions on the regime. The ship is currently in U.S. possession.

The department said the North was found to be concealing the origin of the Wise Honest to export tons of high-grade coal to foreign buyers and import heavy machinery to the North.

Asked about the seizure, an official at Seoul's foreign ministry struck a cautious note.

"It is inappropriate to mention what a third country has enforced," the official said on condition of anonymity.

North Korea is under multiple global sanctions for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, including a ban on exports of coal. Experts see the North's latest criticism against the U.S. as an indication of its anxiety that the seizure could lead to Washington's move to toughen sanctions on its regime going forward.

The denunciation came as nuclear talks have been stalled since the second summit held between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump in February ended without a deal as they failed to find common ground over how to match Pyongyang's denuclearization steps with Washington's sanctions relief.

Pyongyang wanted major sanctions relief as it is pushing to rebuild its economy. Washington remained firm in keeping sanctions in place until the North completely gives up its nuclear weapons.

Last month, North Korean leader Kim urged Washington to change its hard-line stance on denuclearization talks, saying he will wait for its "bold decision" until the end of this year.

North Korea fired short-range missiles last week in apparent frustration with the stalled denuclearization talks. The firing came less than a week after the North flew a barrage of projectiles into the East Sea.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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