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US Court Orders N. Korea to Pay $2.3 Billion to Crew Members of USS Pueblo

FILE - The USS Pueblo, which was captured by North Korea in 1968, is exhibited in the Daedong River in Pyongyang. (Sungwon Baik/VOA)

The former crew of a U.S. intelligence ship seized by North Korea in 1968 are entitled to more than $2.3 billion in damages from Pyongyang for "the pain and suffering" they suffered during 11 months of captivity, a federal judge has ruled.

More than 100 crew members of the USS Pueblo and their relatives filed a lawsuit against North Korea in February 2018. The court decision was handed down on February 16 in Washington.

Normally, foreign governments are immune from lawsuits in U.S. courts. But Congress created an exception in 2016 for nations that are identified as sponsoring terrorism. That exception allowed the Pueblo crewmen to file the lawsuit.

Former President Donald Trump designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in November 2017, after the country was removed from the list in 2008 by President George W. Bush.

The Pueblo was seized by North Korea while it was in international waters off the eastern coast of the Korean Peninsula on January 23, 1968, and the 83 crew members were detained in the North. North Korea released the crew on Dec. 23, 1968, but they have kept the Pueblo.