South Korea seizes Hong Kong ship over North Korea oil transfer

12_31_North Korea

12_31_North Korea

South Korea said it has seized a Panama-flagged vessel days after it impounded a Hong Kong-registered tanker suspected of transferring oil products in worldwide waters.

The ship had headed towards its purported destination in Taiwan, but on reaching worldwide waters transferred some of its 600 tonne cargo to the Sam Jong 2 and three other North Korean vessels, the South claimed.

A Reuters report on Friday also cited two unnamed European intelligence agencies saying that tankers operating out of the Russian Far East were also transferring oil to North Korea at sea.

The authorities said most of the ship's crew are Chinese and Myanmarese.

The ship, loaded with the Japanese refined petroleum, was claimed to be heading to Taiwan.

South Korea seized the second ship, Koti, at Pyeongtaek-Dangjin, a port on its west coast.

"The government has been in close consultations with related countries and ministries to thoroughly implement the sanctions by the UN Security Council", the spokesman said.

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The Sam Jong 2 was one of four North Korean ships that was blocked from global ports by the UN Security Council on Thursday over suspicions of carrying or transporting goods banned by sanctions targeting Pyongyang's weapons ambitions, diplomats told AFP.

But images from the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), released at the end of November, appear to show an attempt between North Korea and China to conduct a ship-to-ship transfer, possibly of oil, to evade sanctions.

Both China and Russian Federation are the DPRK's long-standing energy patrons, as North Korea has no domestic oil and gas production of its own.

"This is one of the main ways in which North Korea uses an illegal network to circumvent UN Security Council sanctions".

The US leader on Thursday tweeted, "Caught RED HANDED - very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea".

Taipei said the Billions Bunker Group is not incorporated in Taiwan but in the Marshall Islands, and that it would "continue to fully comply" with United Nations sanctions against North Korea.

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