NEW YORK  -   North Korea has demanded the United Nations take “urgent measures” to help return a cargo ship taken by the United States, calling the seizure a “heinoUS” act.

Washington announced last week it had taken possession of the North Korean-registered bulk carrier M/V Wise Honest - a year after it was detained in Indonesia - citing sanctions-violating activities.

“This act of dispossession has clearly indicated that the United States is indeed a gangster country that does not care at all about international laws,” the North Korean ambassador to the UN said in a letter sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres dated Friday, according to North Korea’s KCNA news agency.

Earlier this week, Pyongyang had slammed the seizure as an “outright denial” of the spirit of a statement signed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump at their first summit in Singapore last year.

The US JUStice Department said the North Korean cargo ship was seized and impounded to American Samoa. The vessel was accUSed of illicit coal shipments in violation of sanctions. The ship was first confiscated by other foreign maritime authorities in Indonesia in April 2018.

The 17,000-tonne ship, which was also USed to deliver heavy machinery to North Korea, is one of the country’s largest bulk carriers, the JUStice Department said. The case marks the first time the US has seized a North Korean cargo vessel for violating sanctions.

The seizure came amid heightened tensions after Pyongyang conducted weapons drills involving short-range missiles in recent weeks, and with nuclear talks deadlocked since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Trump and Kim earlier this year. With the denuclearisation talks stalled, North Korea went ahead with more weapons tests this month. The tests were seen as a protest by Kim after Trump rejected his calls for sanctions relief at the Hanoi summit.

North Korea is sanctioned under multiple UN Security Council resolutions for its nuclear and missile programmes, and lifting of some of the measures was a key demand from Pyongyang at the second Trump-Kim summit in February that ultimately broke down without a deal.