by WorldTribune Staff, May 10, 2019
The Kim Jong-Un regime, which has been reeling amid reports of purges after U.S. President Donald Trump walked out of the Hanoi Summit in late February, took another hit on May 9 when the U.S. announced it was, for the first time, seizing a North Korean cargo ship accused of illicit coal shipments.
The U.S. Department of Justice said the 17,061-tonne Wise Honest, one of North Korea’s largest cargo ships, is now in the possession of the United States for violating UN sanctions which ban the North’s export of coal.
Geostrategy-Direct.com noted in a May 7 report that most of the negotiating team Kim Jong-Un put together have now fallen out of favor, including chief negotiator Kim Hyok-Chol, and Kim’s sister and closest aide Kim Yo-Jong, who has disappeared from the public eye since last being mentioned by state media in early April.
Related: Kim’s post-Hanoi summit moves mystifies North Korea watchers, May 7, 2019
North Korean watchers have also noted signs of strain in the person and entourage of an increasingly obese Kim Jong-Un.
A team of more than 100 doctors and scientists monitor his rumored cardiovascular disease and diabetes at bay. Defector Hyeong-Soo Kim, who fled North Korea in 2009, said a Longevity Institute has as its central purpose the preserving of the leader’s health, according to a Daily Mail report.
Following the U.S. seizure of the North Korean vessel, Kim Jong-Un called for a “full combat posture.”
“(Kim) stressed the need to further increase the capability of the defense units in the forefront area and on the western front to carry out combat tasks and keep full combat posture to cope with any emergency,” state-run propaganda outlet KCNA reported.
“I know they want to negotiate, they’re talking about negotiating. But I don’t think they’re ready to negotiate,” Trump told reporters.
The Trump administration has said it will continue its policy of “maximum pressure” via sanctions on North Korea until the young dictator agrees to full and verifiable denuclearization.
As part of sanctions enforcement, the vessel which is now in the possession of the United States is currently approaching U.S. territorial waters heading toward American Samoa, U.S. Justice Department officials said.
Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said “There is no connection at all between the recent activities by North Korea” and the seizure of the vessel. “We have been pursuing this for months.”
North Korea’s testing of several short-range missiles and projectiles in recent weeks were the first missile launches by the North since an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in November 2017.
“They were smaller missiles, they were short-range missiles,” Trump said. “Nobody’s happy about it but we’re taking a good look and we’ll see.”
The latest tests were swiftly followed by U.S. test-launches of the intercontinental ballistic missile Minuteman III over the Pacific and the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) off Florida.