Panamanian vessel probed over suspected oil supplies to N. Korea

Kristopher Drake
January 1, 2018

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 global waters.

The Sam Jong 2 was one of four ships barred from global ports by the UN Security Council over suspicions that it had transported goods banned under the sanctions measures.

The Lighthouse Winmore, which was chartered by a Taiwanese company, was impounded by South Korean customs authorities at the port of Yeosu on Nov 24 following an inspection.

South Korean officials are holding the 5100-tonne, Panama flagged tanker called KOTI in Pyeongtaek-Dangjin after deciding not to let release the vessel on December 21 to investigate further. They declined to provide details of the probe, and the foreign ministry also said it has yet to receive any formal notification from the related agencies on the inquiry.

It was seized and inspected by customs authorities when it returned to South Korea's Yeosu port, the official said.

After leaving port, however, the Hong Kong ship met up with the Sam Jong 2, a 2,507-ton North Korean tanker, and three other unnamed ships in global waters in the East China Sea.

"The actions will be reported to the UN Security Council sanctions committee on North Korea in the future", the official added.

South Korean Unification Minster Cho Myoung-gyon says the South proposes the two Koreas meet Jan. 9 at the border village of Panmunjom to discuss Olympic cooperation

Even though the Sam Jong 2 was not among the four banned vessels, it appears on a list of six other ships suspected of transporting illicit cargo, along with the Lighthouse Winmore.

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's Foreign Ministry, responding to a question from Reuters on the blocking, said Beijing always fully and strictly implemented Security Council resolutions.

Under United Nations Security Council resolution 2375, which was adopted in September, companies or organizations of member states are not permitted to carry out the ship-to-ship transfer of any goods that are bound for North Korea.

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.

China also denied reports it had been illicitly selling oil products to North Korea in defiance of U.N. sanctions, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he was unhappy that China had allowed oil to reach the isolated nation.


Other reports by Ligue1talk

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