Panamanian vessel probed over suspected oil supplies to N. Korea

12_31_North Korea
Russia denies North Korea sanctions breach claims
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01 January, 2018

The crew of a Hong Kong-registered ship have been detained for questioning in South Korea since their tanker was impounded in November for transferring oil to a North Korean vessel and breaching United Nations sanctions, customs officials said Saturday.

The Lighthouse Winmore was one of 10 ships the United States asked the United Nations to ban from global ports this month over its alleged dealings with North Korea, according to Reuters. The port is on the west coast, south of Incheon.

"The government has been in close consultations with related countries and ministries to thoroughly implement the sanctions by the U.N. Security Council", the spokesman said.

Four ships - three North Korean vessels and a Palau-flagged oil tanker - were blocked from global ports by the UN Security Council on Thursday over suspicions of carrying or transporting goods banned by sanctions targeting Pyongyang's weapons ambitions, according to the final list adopted by the world body.

On Friday, South Korea said that in late November it seized the Hong Kong-flagged Lighthouse Winmore, which is suspected of transferring as much as 600 tons of oil to the North Korea-flagged Sam Jong 2.

The Hong Kong-registered Lighthouse Winmore, which was chartered by a Taiwanese company, was seized at the South's port of Yeosu in November for allegedly transferring refined petroleum products to the North's Sam Jong 2.

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.

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Its crew - mostly from Myanmar and China - were being questioned by the customs office and the intelligence agency.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that Russia has "fully and strictly observed the sanctions regime".

"This is one of the main ways in which North Korea uses an illegal network to circumvent UN Security Council sanctions".

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

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.

Security sources say Russian ships loaded with petrol have been meeting up with North Korean vessels at sea and transferring the loads.


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