North Korea continues to ship coal despite sanctions and a South Korean ship has been held at port for nearly six months for suspected involvement in related activities, it was revealed Tuesday.
According to Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a South Korean ship suspected of transferring petroleum products to a North Korean vessel in a ship-to-ship transfer is currently being held in Busan.
“One South Korean ship has been banned from leaving port since October on suspicion of violating UN Security Council sanctions,” a Foreign Ministry official told local media.
“Concerned ministries are working together in dealing with the vessel suspected of violating (UN) Security Council resolutions. (The ministry) is working closely with the US and the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea in applying the resolutions.”
According to reports, the South Korean government began the investigation upon receipt of intelligence from the US government that the ship transferred refined petroleum to a North Korean ship. The investigation found probable cause to suspect involvement in the activities, and is being held in accordance with UN resolutions.
The ship reportedly transferred more than 4,300 tons of diesel to North Korean vessels on two occasions in September 2017 in Chinese waters.
The ship’s captain and the company that operates the vessel have been referred to the prosecution, with the Coast Guard recommending they be indicted.
The ship is the first South Korean vessel to be held at port for suspected violation of North Korea sanctions. There are three foreign vessels that have been banned from leaving port for involvement in ship-to-ship transfer of cargo and transporting North Korean coal.
UN Security Council Resolution 2397 mandates that member states search and impound vessels suspected of participating in actions banned under the resolution.
North Korea has used ship-to-ship transfers to avoid sanctions, and a UN Security Council report released last month claimed Pyongyang is using the method in an increasingly intricate manner for a wider range of cargo.
The report also said the volume of petroleum products transported using ship-to-ship transfers saw a significant increase last year over the previous year.
In a related development, North Korea-monitoring website 38 North reported Monday that North Korea appears to be shipping coal despite sanctions.
Citing satellite imagery taken in February and March, the website reported that North Korea continues to load coal in ports on the west and northeast coast of the country, and at a railway yard on the border with China.
The website said that in a satellite photograph taken on March 13, 21 trucks used for transporting coal can be seen near a coal storage yard at Nampo Port on west coast of North Korea. In addition, 25 trucks were spotted near rail tracks in the vicinity of the port.
The website also reported that a large amount of coal was seen at the port in Najin, and that coal seen in the images was likely to be shipped out of the country disguised as Chinese or Russian products.
Najin is located in the northeastern corner of North Korea near the border with Russia.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com