North Korea: Korean War: USS Pueblo

In this January 23, 1968 photo from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, distributed by Korea News Service, USS Pueblo, a Banner-class technical research ship (Navy intelligence), captured by the (North) Korean People's Navy.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert introduced a House resolution Monday calling for the return of the USS Pueblo, a spy ship held captive by North Korea since the country seized the vessel more than 50 years ago.

Boebert's request comes just over a week since a federal court awarded $2.3 billion to more than 100 crew members and families of the U.S. Navy vessel, Stars and Stripes reported.

The only commissioned Naval vessel held by a foreign power, the ship is moored in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and is used as a propaganda museum.

The North Koreans captured the ship in international waters on Jan. 23, 1968, in a raid that killed Petty Officer Duane Hedges. The 82 other crew members were held and tortured by the North Koreans for nearly a year.

"For 53 years, North Korea has unlawfully held the USS Pueblo captive, displaying it as a war trophy in its capital city of Pyongyang. Named for Pueblo, Colorado, bringing home the ship is a personal priority, as well as an important national effort to honor fallen Petty Officer Duane Hodges and display American resolve," said Boebert, the freshman Republican whose 3rd Congressional District includes Pueblo, in a release.

Her resolution makes clear that the ship is the property of the U.S. Navy and that the siege, Hodges' death and the imprisonment of the other Americans was a violation of international law. It also calls on the president and secretary of state to make the vessel's return a crucial part of future diplomatic efforts with North Korea.

Boebert's predecessors have routinely filed similar resolutions over the decades, and the Colorado General Assembly regularly passes a resolution calling for the vessel's return, sponsored by lawmakers representing Pueblo.

Two years ago, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, the incumbent Republican Boebert defeated last summer in a primary, called on the North Korean regime to return the ship to the United States "as a sign of good faith from the North Korean people to the American people" ahead of a planned summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong-Un.

Tipton also asked Trump to include the ship's status in nuclear talks with Kim.

Noting that Pyongyang has ignored calls to return the American vessel for decades, The Pueblo Chieftain editorial board endorsed a 2019 proposal by then-U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner to swap the USS Pueblo for a North Korean coal freighter seized by the United States in a trade dispute.

Calling the USS Pueblo a "powerful symbol" that "needs to be returned home," the Chieftain said it belongs in its namesake town, where "it could be a tourist attraction for all the right reasons."

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