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South Korea has seized a Hong Kong (China)-flagged vessel allegedly involved in illegally selling oil (at sea) to North Korea.  Such oil sales violate a UN Security Council economic sanctions.  

This is a sudden and unexpected escalation in the North Korea situation.

The Hong Kong-flagged vessel has been seized and inspected by South Korean authorities after secretly transferring oil to a North Korean vessel in international waters in a ship-to-ship transfer prohibited by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Yonhap news agency reported government officials as saying on Friday (Dec 29).

South Korean customs authorities inspected the Hong Kong vessel, Lighthouse Winmore, when it entered the country’s Yeosu Port on Nov 24 after transferring 600 tonnes of refined oil to a North Korean vessel on Oct 19, the officials said.

UNSC Resolution 2375, adopted in September, bans member countries from ship-to-ship transfer of any goods for North Korea.

The Hong Kong-flagged ship was chartered by Taiwanese company Billions Bunker Group and had previously visited South Korea’s Yeosu Port on Oct 11 to load up on Japanese refined oil and head to its claimed destination in Taiwan, the authorities noted.

Instead of going to Taiwan, however, the vessel transferred the oil to a North Korean ship, the Sam Jong 2, and three other non-North Korean vessels in international waters, they said.

"The actions taken will be reported to the UNSC sanctions committee on North Korea in the future," according to the authorities. "This marks a typical case of North Korea shrewdly circumventing UNSC sanctions by using its illegal networks." 

The officials said South Korea had shared intelligence with the US for the detection of the illegal transaction.

On December 26, I reported that satellites detected ship-to-ship illegal oil sales over 30 times in October.

Two days later, President Trump tweeted about the issue, saying "Caught RED HANDED — very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea," Trump tweeted. "There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!"

Here is the President's Tweet:

The tweet seemed to spur China to flatly DENY any such activities were taking place.

China denied on Friday that it has been illegally selling oil to North Korea, after President Trump leveled the allegation against Beijing on Twitter.

A spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry insisted that Beijing has worked to implement United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding sanctions against North Korea and that reports indicating otherwise were incorrect.

“China has always implemented U.N. Security Council resolutions pertaining to North Korea in their entirety and fulfills its international obligations," the spokeswoman, Hua Chunying said, according to Reuters.

"We never allow Chinese companies and citizens to violate the resolutions," she added. 

Then, later Friday, South Korea seized the tanker allegedly involved in the illegal oil sales.

This is a MAJOR escalation in the North Korea situation.

 

 

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