Korea holds Panama oil tanker suspected of N. Korea trade

Trevor Jackson
January 1, 2018

South Korean authorities seized a second oil tanker for allegedly supplying fuels to North Korea at sea, the South's media reported on Sunday.

The ship, KOTI, was seized at Pyeongtaek-Dangjin port, the official told Reuters, without elaborating, due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The resolution adopted by the council included sharply lower limits on North Korea's refined oil imports, the return home of all North Koreans working overseas within 24 months, and a crackdown on ships smuggling banned items including coal and oil to and from the country.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed the probe, declining to provide details. We are also working closely with relevant countries and ministries for a thorough implementation of the United Nations resolutions.

Instead of going to Taiwan, however, the vessel transferred 600 tonnes of oil to the North's Sam Jong 2 in worldwide waters off China before returning to Yeosu, the customs service officials said.

Under the most recent sanctions, imposed in early December, North Korea is only permitted to import 500,000 barrels of refined petroleum a year, a reduction of 86 percent of its previous imports.

The Lighthouse Winmore was one of 10 ships the United States asked the United Nations to ban from worldwide ports this month over its alleged dealings with North Korea, according to Reuters.

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On Thursday, China blocked a US effort at the United Nations to blacklist six foreign-flagged ships, a U.N. Security Council diplomat said.

The KOTI's ties to China also seem clear, the tanker is run by companies operating out of Hong Kong and Dalian, two well-known hubs for North Korean sanctions evasion.

China had always implemented United Nations resolutions in their entirety, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

"At the same time, any measures taken by the Security Council must have a basis in conclusive and actual proof".

The US had asked the Security Council to blacklist all 10 vessels, but China objected to the proposal, diplomats said, and only agreed to blacklist four ships on Thursday.

The seizure follows that of the Lighthouse Winmore, another oil tanker which Seoul claims supplied fuel products to North Korea in October, in breach of UN Resolution 2375.

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.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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