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View more articles by Hamish Macdonald
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
China has barred North Korean vessels from entering six of its ports under new unilateral orders given to its port authorities in March, according to an article published by the Asahi Shimbun on Tuesday.
Citing unnamed sources “close to Chinese port authorities and trading firms”, the Asahi Shimbun named the ports of Nantong, Rizhao, Penglai, Weifang, Tianjin and Yingkou as being subject to the new measures.
“We received a verbal order out of the blue from the customs authority on March 19, and all North Korean vessels are anchored outside the port awaiting permission to enter,” the Asahi Shimbun quoted an official from Penglai’s port authority as saying.
The article adds that the Chinese maritime authority has “demanded” North Korean freighters located near the ports resubmit the necessary documents for entry, and can enter once it is determined that those freighters are not affiliated with North Korea’s sanctioned weapons programme.
While NK News was unable to get confirmation from port authorities at the time of writing, live shipping data shows irregular groupings of North Korean vessels in anchorage off and in close proximity to the listed ports, a possible indicator that the measures are being implemented.
A group of 10 North Korean flagged ships is clustered around Longkou harbour, which is only 40km from Penglai, with a further five North Korean affiliated ships among them. The North Korean flagged Tong Chon is also in close proximity and is around 9km from the port of Penglai.
Four North Korean flagged vessels are also near Bayuqaun, which is within 50km of Yingkou, and are joined by a further eight North Korean affiliated vessels sailing under foreign flags of convenience.
According to the website of China’s Maritime Safety Administration, Yingkou’s port authority also has jurisdiction over Bayuquan port.
“There are an unusually large number of North Korea linked ships near Bayuquan and Longkou, which indicates they could have been rerouted from other ports,” Leo Byrne, Director of Data and Analytics at NK News said.
Another grouping of five DPRK flagged vessels has been seen near the port of Lanshan within the last 24 hours. Lanshan is 35km from the port of Rizaho, which is also on the alleged list of ports banning North Korean vessels from entering. Several of the North Korean flagged ships have since headed away from the anchorages of Lanshan and Rizaho.
“It’s worth noting that if accurate, the Chinese embargo would go well beyond what’s required in Resolution 2270,” Byrne said.
“But questions remain, it’s unclear why North Korean ships would be barred from those ports, yet not Dalian – the most visited port of call for North Korean ships in the area.”