North Korean cargo ship seized by US arrives in American Samoa

This undated photo released by the U.S. Justice Dept, Thursday, May 9, 2019, shows the North Korean cargo ship Wise Honest. (AP)
Updated 12 May 2019

North Korean cargo ship seized by US arrives in American Samoa

  • The inspection of the ship before entering the harbor is to make sure the structure integrity of the boat is still intact

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa: A North Korean cargo ship seized by the US because of suspicion it was used to violate international sanctions arrived Saturday at the capital of this American territory.
The Wise Honest was slowly towed to the port of Pago Pago during a cloudy Saturday morning and docked at the main docking section of the port that afternoon.
The trip from Indonesia took about three weeks and American Samoa, in the South Pacific, was chosen because of “its central strategic location,” US Coast Guard public affairs officer Amanda Wyrick said.
“We also have a good strong relationship and partnership with the American Samoan government,” Wyrick said. “With that being said, we also already have the resources that are able to ensure the security of the vessel but most importantly the Port of Pago Pago.”
The ship was detained in April 2018 as it traveled toward Indonesia. Justice Department officials announced Thursday that the US had seized the ship.
Asked as to how long the ship will be in the territory, Wyrick said the US Department of Justice is “leading the investigation so they will be conducting that. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the ship will be moved.” But the next destination is unknown, she said.
“I do know that Justice Department is going to do the investigation as fast as they can,” Wyrick added.
She said she didn’t have the exact number of US Coast Guard personnel or people from other federal agencies who have traveled to American Samoa for the investigation.
“I do know that, we have a marine and safety security team here from Honolulu,” Wyrick said. “We’re conducting random patrols, also conducting inspection of the vessel and the Port of Pago Pago, keep an eye on things such as security breaches or vandalization of the ship itself.”
Officials are also making sure the port is protected, she said.
“We especially in the Coast Guard, we understand the importance of the port. It’s a lifeline in getting goods to the islands,” Wyrick said. “So we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can, to make sure that there’s absolutely no disruption to the flow of commerce coming in and out.”
The US government dispatched to the territory an inspection team to the ship before it docked in Pago Pago, she said. Wyrick noted there was an inspection conducted before leaving Indonesia and, because the ship has been at sea for three weeks, “it’s subject to the elements.”
“The inspection of the ship before entering the harbor is to make sure the structure integrity of the boat is still intact. In that way, once we get the thumps up, and the green light, and the inspectors deem it safe, then it will enter the port,” Wyrick said.
US officials made the announcement of the ship’s seizure hours after North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles toward the sea, the second weapons launch in five days and a possible signal that stalled talks over its nuclear weapons program are in trouble.


Republican stalwart Rooney ‘thinking’ about impeachment

Updated 26 min 42 sec ago

Republican stalwart Rooney ‘thinking’ about impeachment

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump gave an atta-boy to Republican Rep. Francis Rooney last year on the congressman’s home turf in swing state Florida.
“I love it when he defends me,” the president said then. He might feel differently now.
The second-term Republican said publicly Friday what others in his party are not, namely that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged a quid pro quo was at work when Trump held up US aid to Ukraine in exchange for Kyiv’s investigation of Democrats and the 2016 elections. Mulvaney later claimed his comments had been misconstrued, but Rooney said he and other Republicans heard them clearly.
“He said there’s a quid pro quo,” Rooney said of Mulvaney during a telephone interview. “I just don’t think that the power and prestige of our country is supposed to be used for political things.”
Asked whether he thinks Trump’s conduct is impeachable, Rooney replied, “I’m still thinking about it.”
Anything short of a “no” on that question, even from only one of 197 Republicans in the House, is notable amid the drive by majority Democrats to impeach Trump. The president has made clear that he does more than notice what he considers acts of disloyalty; he is fond of making examples of Republicans by threatening to sink their re-election bids and following through in a few cases.
Friday night, Trump tweeted, “REPUBLICANS MUST STICK TOGETHER AND FIGHT!” That tweet was accompanied by a video targeting Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who has been critical of Trump’s handling of Turkey’s assault on Syrian Kurds.
When Rep. Justin Amash of politically critical Michigan became the first House Republican to call for Trump’s impeachment earlier this year — and quit the party — the backlash from Trump’s orbit was swift.
But that was before revelations about Trump’s pressure on Ukraine, which made his impeachment by the end of the year a real possibility. Since the release of a rough transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president, many current and former administration officials have testified before House impeachment investigators.
Then Mulvaney spoke on Thursday. Rooney said in a telephone interview that the chief of staff’s comments marked a turning point for him from giving the president “the benefit of the doubt.” And he said GOP colleagues are newly troubled.
“They were all going around saying what the president said — that there wasn’t a quid pro quo,” Rooney said. “There were a lot of Republicans looking at that headline yesterday. I think people were concerned about it.”
Rooney said he had not received any blowback from the White House for his comments, though about half of the calls he’s getting are from constituents who are critical, including “some pretty hostile” ones from ardent Trump supporters.
Only a year ago, at a presidential rally in Estero, Trump praised Rooney as “a man who’s so great to me on television. This guy is special. He was a great businessman. Now he’s a great congressman, Francis Rooney.”
He went on: “I love him when he defends me. He’s brutal. He gets the job done, right, Francis? Thank you, man.”
Rooney, 65, is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, a solid member of the Republican establishment. Among the wealthiest members of the House, he won his second term last year with 62 percent of the vote. His foreign policy bona fides come in part from his service as ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush.
His official biography tells the story of his longtime connection to the GOP. In 1984, the family started Rooney Holdings Inc. One of the company’s subsidiaries counts among its projects the presidential libraries for both Bush and his father, George H. W. Bush, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans football stadiums, the US Capitol Visitor’s Center, the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research and the international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.
Rooney has at times been a Trump critic. He was one of 13 House Republicans to join a Democratic effort early this year to stop the president from declaring a national emergency to fund his border wall with Mexico.
On Friday, Rooney was no longer one of Trump’s defenders, on television or elsewhere.
“Whatever may have been gray and unclear before is certainly clear now,” he said on CNN.