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NK asks S. Korea to provide fuel for ship that transported art troupe

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Feb. 7, 2018 - 22:38

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North Korea has requested South Korea provide additional fuel for its vessel currently docked in the South, as it serves as accommodation for its art troupe visiting the South, Seoul‘s Ministry of Unification said Wednesday, in a move likely to present the South with complications linked to international sanctions. 

North Korea’s Mangyongbong-92 (Yonhap) North Korea’s Mangyongbong-92 (Yonhap)

North Korea’s Mangyongbong-92, serving as both means of transportation and accommodation for the 140-member Samjiyon art troupe has been docked at the South Korean eastern port of Mukho since its arrival Tuesday. Seoul has already agreed to temporarily exempt the ship from its unilateral sanctions that ban North Korean vessels from entering its waters.

“The North has asked the South to provide fuel (for the ship). The government is currently reviewing the request,” Baik Tae-hyun, ministry spokesman, told a press briefing.

The amount of fuel the North has asked for was not released at the briefing.

Oil and refined petroleum products are on the list of key items subjected to the United Nations Security Council sanctions. The UNSC imposed an annual cap of 500,000 barrels on refined petroleum product exports to North Korea.

Seoul said Tuesday that it is likely to provide food, fuel and electricity to the vessel throughout its stay here, while also closely consulting with the US and international community.

But the ministry later revised its previous comment, saying the North had not asked for detailed services and nothing specific had been decided.

“It’s complicated because North Korea‘s sovereignty extends to Mangyongbong-92 and providing fuel to the ship must be done in consideration of the current sanctions imposed on the North,” said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Seoul’s Dongguk University.

“But ‘flexibility’ must also be considered under the current situation surrounding the Olympic overture,” he added.

When the Mangyongbong-92 transported the North’s cheering squad for the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, the South provided food, drinking water, electricity and fuel.

The South agreed to maximize convenience for the art troupe and guarantee its safety during working-level talks with the North on Jan. 15.

Seoul also said it would make sure US food ingredients were not included in meals, in a bid to prevent a possible violation of US sanctions that ban the delivery of American goods and services to North Korea.

The exact timing for Mangyongbong-92’s trip back to the North has not yet been confirmed, but the media here are speculating it to fall after the art troupe’s first concert in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Thursday. The art troupe is to stay in Seoul’s Walkerhill Hotel for its second and final performance in South Korea at the National Theater of Korea on Sunday.

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)