+ A

U.S. raises the pressure on North

Military allies to track ships for possible sanctions violations
Sept 14,2018
The United States and its allies are preparing to “name and shame” North Korea for sanctions violations even as a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is in the works, CNN reported on Wednesday, citing two defense officials.

The sources said that North Korea was regularly employing “deceptive tactics to evade UN sanctions” meant to curb the country’s nuclear weapons program amid stalled denuclearization talks, CNN reported.

On Monday, the White House announced that Kim had sent Trump a letter requesting a second summit and said they were in the “process of coordinating that.”

But Washington has continued to enforce its maximum pressure campaign on the North, much to the ire of Pyongyang, enforcing stringent sanctions while pursuing talks.

The new tactic to expose the North’s illegal activities, according to CNN, involves allied military efforts to enforce UN sanctions on the North, in particular monitoring ships that are illicitly transferring refined petroleum to North Korean oil tankers in the East China Sea.

Japan, Australia and New Zealand, according to the report, are expected to make announcements about their own monitoring and surveillance efforts. It added that Canada, France, South Korea and the United Kingdom are also involved in coordinating these efforts.

U.S. aircraft and surface vessels have been secretly deployed to detect and disrupt these illegal activities, keeping discreet to avoid provoking North Korea as negotiations over denuclearization continue, CNN reported.

“There’s a lot of nations contributing” to increased U.S. military activity to enforce international sanctions, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was quoted as saying by CNN, specifically mentioning Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. “We’ll do whatever we have to do to support the diplomats in the negotiation, and carry out the UN, the international sanctions.”

Noh Kyu-deok, a spokesman for the South’s Foreign Ministry, said in a briefing in Seoul on Thursday that the ministry was still “in the process of confirming” reports of U.S. efforts to expose sanctions violations by the North.

South Korea is currently preparing for a summit between President Moon Jae-in and Kim, their third so far, set to take place in Pyongyang from Tuesday to Thursday. It is also launching a joint liaison office with the North today at the border city of Kaesong.

The opening of the office has raised some concerns about potential sanctions violation, but Seoul has denied this would be the case.

Last month, the United States blacklisted two Russian shipping companies and six Russian vessels for their involvement in ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products with North Korea-flagged vessels and enabling violations of UN sanctions.

The United States is also monitoring North Korea for possible meddling in the upcoming midterm elections in November, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told reporters in a phone briefing on Wednesday. “We have seen signs of not just Russia, but from China, of capabilities, potentially from Iran and even North Korea,” he said.

Trump also signed an executive order on Wednesday authorizing a range of sanctions to punish individuals, companies and countries that interfere in U.S. elections.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]