The Southern District of New York has released a criminal complaint to accompany the seizure of a North Korean freighter “Wise Honest” (Full pdf below). The freighter was seized by Indonesian authorities on/around April 2, 2018 [media story here]. However, the background story of Wise Honest is more interesting.
The indictment outlines how the freighter was used to transport coal from North Korea to China and Russia and back-haul heavy equipment from Chinese ports into the DPRK. However, the transport network changed with the timing of increased sanctions on the DPRK. Simply, the ship was routed to avoid being caught for violating sanctions.
The indictment also outlines how Chinese entities in Hong Kong assisted with routing the vessel to avoid maritime surveillance. There’s an aspect here that overlays a prior set of CTH discussions surrounding U.S. Navy training for a potential U.S. maritime blockade.
You might remember November 2017 CTH discussions about U.S. vessels conducting training exercises in/around shipping lanes. In 2017 and 2018 there were some maritime collisions that seemed to align with the possibility of these training exercises. In June 2017 The USS Fitzgerald was one such example near the coast of Japan.
On page 19 of the indictment the DOJ outlines how vessel Wise Honest was turning off their “Automated Identification System” (AIS), which is the automatic beacon that transmits their location to other surface vessels via satellite.
An interesting coincidence given the previous discussions on those 2017 Pacific shipping lane maritime collisions.