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North Korea demands return of cargo ship seized by US

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H.R. McMaster a former national security adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump responds to an interview with The Asahi Shimbun

North Korea on Tuesday called the US seizure of a North Korean cargo ship involved in banned coal exports a "robbery" and demanded that the vessel be returned immediately.

In a statement carried on Tuesday, the official Korean Central News Agency reported quoting an unnamed foreign ministry spokesperson that the USA had betrayed the spirit of a summit agreement past year between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, Pyongyang's foreign ministry spokesman accused the United States of "illegal seizure", and demanded the immediate return of the Sierra Leonean and North Korean-flagged ship.

Last week, the US Department of Justice said that the United States seized a vessel, known as Wise Honest, due to what it described as the breach of US and UN sanctions by engaging in illicit coal shipments.

"This act of "maximum pressure" is a continuation of the United States' calculating style, created to push us into submission", the North Korean foreign ministry said.

"The U.S. should carefully deliberate what consequences will follow in the current situation derived by their robbery and promptly return our ship", the Tuesday statement read.

Since 2018, North Korea has been engaged in denuclearisation talks with the United States.

This is the first time the U.S. has seized a North Korean ship for breaching sanctions and comes amid worsening relations between the two countries.

The US move came hours after North Korea fired two short-range missiles on Thursday.

In a statement, released via the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesperson accused Washington of committing an "unlawful and outrageous act" for taking possession of its second-largest bulk freighter.

It was brought Saturday to American Samoa, where it will undergo inspections.

North Korea is banned from exporting coal under United Nations sanctioned that were toughened in 2017 to punish the Hermit Kingdom over its weapons testing that year.

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