12/29/2017, 13.33
KOREA – CHINA – UNITED STATES

Seoul seizes Hong Kong-flagged ship with petroleum for Pyongyang

The vessel appears to have circumvented UN sanctions against North Korea. South Korea and the United States have complained to the UN that ten ships, including some from China, traded with North Korea. Beijing has denied the claim.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – South Korean authorities have seized and inspected a Hong Kong-flagged ship in international waters that transferred oil to a North Korean ship in contravention of the UN-imposed embargo.

According to the authorities, the vessel, the Lighthouse Winmore, transferred 600 tonnes of refined oil to a North Korean ship on 19 October. It was seized by the investigators on 24 November when it entered Yeosu port.

Last September, the UN Security Council increased sanctions against Pyongyang, cutting oil exports and banning ship-to-ship transfers.

The Hong Kong-flagged ship was chartered by Taiwanese company Billions Bunker Group and had previously visited South Korea's Yeosu Port to load up on Japanese refined oil and headed to its claimed destination in Taiwan four days later.

However, instead of going to Taiwan, the vessel transferred the oil to a North Korean ship, the Sam Jong 2, and three other non-North Korean vessels in international waters.

"This marks a typical case of North Korea shrewdly circumventing UNSC sanctions by using its illegal networks," South Korean authorities said. China is said to belong to such "networks".

Seoul and Washington, which are sharing satellite information, have filed a complaint with the United Nations  that at least ten ships, including some linked to China, had contravened international sanctions.

The US Treasury Department released some images showing Chinese ships transferring petroleum to North Korean ships in the East China Sea (pictured).

Yesterday, China’s Defense Ministry denied that Beijing is involved in violating UN sanctions against North Korea.

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