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3 more ships violated sanctions

Aug 06,2018
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries has data that proves three more foreign vessels involved in the transshipment of North Korean coal entered South Korean ports, an opposition lawmaker said on Sunday.

The ships allegedly entered the ports 52 times since the United Nations Security Council imposed a ban on coal exports from the reclusive regime last year.

Rep. Yoo Ki-june of the Liberty Korea Party (LKP) said local authorities investigated eight ships so far on allegations that they were involved in the shady transactions, including three that weren’t previously revealed to local media. Yoo heads a taskforce within the LKP that accuses the Moon Jae-in administration of intentionally turning a blind eye to sanctions violations.

The 15-member UN Security Council imposed a ban on North Korean coal exports, along with exports of iron, lead and seafood, in Resolution 2371, which was unanimously adopted on Aug. 5, 2017 in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile provocations. Resolution 2397, adopted by the same council last December, allows member countries to seize, inspect and impound ships at ports if they have “reasonable grounds to believe” they were involved in the transport of items prohibited by sanctions, including coal, through ship-to-ship transfers. Two other foreign vessels that visited South Korean ports also shipped refined petroleum products to the North, Yoo continued.

Resolution 2397 slashed the amount of refined petroleum North Korea is allowed to import each year to 500,000 barrels, down from the 2 million permitted in a previous resolution in September, slashing the regime’s fuel supply. The illicit coal transfers first came to light in late June, when a UN panel of experts wrote in a report that North Korean coal shipped to the Russian port of Kholmsk was reloaded on two vessels that entered the South Korean ports of Incheon and Pohang after the UN Security Council’s comprehensive coal ban went into effect in August last year.

Seoul’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it was aware of the North Korean coal shipment prior to the release of the UN report, adding it opened an investigation into the transfers in cooperation with customs authorities. But the ministry denied it had violated sanctions by not impounding the vessels, citing a lack of “reasonable grounds” to detain them after they entered South Korean territory.

Yoo thinks otherwise. “The vessels are subject to detainment under UN Security Council resolutions, yet [the administration] allowed them to pass by domestic ports dozens of times,” he said. “Authorities are saying they’re digging into the case, when in fact, they’ve had their hands completely off the [situation] and are keeping their mouths shut about it.”

BY SUNG JI-WON [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]