South Korean authorities have boarded and seized a Hong Kong-flagged ship suspected of violating U.N. sanctions by transferring oil to a North Korean vessel in October, its foreign ministry has said.
Crew members from the vessel, Lighthouse Winmore, are being questioned about allegedly transferring 600 tons of refined petroleum products in international waters after leaving the South Korean port of Yeosu.
The vessel was intercepted when it returned to Yeosu on 24 November. Its current location and the whereabouts of the crew are unclear.
The U.S. is pushing for the Lighthouse Winmore to be blacklisted by the U.N.
The vesse lis alleged to have been carrying valuable petrol products for North Korean in violation of U.N. sanctions
The U.S. is eager to stop countries from breaching sanctions rules imposed against the pariah state led by Kim Jong-un
US satellites have spotted Chinese tankers transferring oil to North Korean ships 30 times in three months – despite strict UN trade embargoes, it has been claimed. One picture (above), reportedly taken on October 19, shows a ship called Ryesonggang 1 connected to a Chinese vessel in the West Sea off China
Sanctions have been placed on Kim Jong-un’s secretive nation after he accelerated his nuclear and missile programmes
South Korea maintains a strong naval presence off its coast
The U.S. is now lobbying for the Lighthouse Winmore to be blacklisted by the U.N. Security Council for circumventing sanctions slapped on North Korea for its nuclear and missile programs, documents obtained by the Reuters news agency show.
The U.S. Treasury Department last month sanctioned six North Korean shipping and trading companies and 20 of their vessels, and published photos of what it said was a North Korean vessel on 19 October possibly transferring oil to evade sanctions. It was not immediately clear whether the Lighthouse Winmore was involved in the transactions shown in the Treasury Department images.
The ship is reported to have been chartered by Taiwan’s Billions Bunker Group and stopped at South Korea to load Japanese oil products. It claimed its destination as Taiwan when leaving Yeosu on 11 October, a South Korean foreign office official said.
North Korea came under heavy sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council as it accelerated efforts to expand its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program.
In recent months it has conducted numerous nuclear tests, flight-testing intercontinental ballistic missiles three times. This in turn has raised concerns that it is closer than ever toward gaining a military arsenal that can viably target the U.S.
Ship-to-ship trade with North Korea at sea is prohibited under U.N. sanctions adopted in September.
News of the ship inspection came hours after President Donald Trump criticized China following previous reports that Chinese ships transferred oil to North Korean vessels at sea.
Trump said on Twitter that China had been “Caught RED HANDED,” adding he was “very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea”.
“There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!” the president said, without citing the source of his information.
China accounts for the vast majority of North Korea’s external trade and oil supplies.