North Korea demands return of detained cargo ship

Relations have cooled since Kim Jong Un and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in held their first meeting

North Korea on Tuesday demanded the release of a cargo ship seized by the US on suspicion of breaching United Nations and USA sanctions, the official Yonhap news agency cited Pyongyang state media as saying.

It added that the seizure was a denial of the "underlying spirit" of last June's DPRK-US Joint Statement on renewed bilateral relations made by US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

Last week the U.S. justice department accused Pyongyang of violating worldwide sanctions by using the vessel for coal shipments.

Undated photo released by the U.S. Justice Dept. on May 9, 2019 shows the North Korean cargo ship "Wise Honest".

The foreign ministry statement rejected UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea, which the U.S. cited in impounding the vessel, as a violation of its sovereignty.

The move was an "extension of United States calculation" to bring Pyongyang to its knees through maximum pressure, he said.

More news: 5 killed in Sudan violence

The 17,000-ton vessel, North Korea's second-largest cargo ship, had been used to export North Korean coal in violation of worldwide sanctions, US officials say.

"The U.S. should think seriously about what consequences its brigandish act will bring about and return our ship without delay", a North Korean spokesperson was quoted by Yonhap as saying.

A senior North Korean foreign ministry official on Saturday lashed out at last week's statement by the U.S. State Department that Pyongyang's regime subjected its people to "egregious violations" of human rights including 100,000 in political prison camps.

The Trump administration announced that it would seize the ship hours after North Korea fired short-range missiles on Thursday.

The statement accused Washington of attempting to use "maximum pressure" on North Korea in a bid to bring the country "to its knees". Experts believe coal and other mineral exports help finance the North's weapons industry.

The ship arrived this week at the port of Pago Pago in the USA territory of American Samoa.

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