Japanese authorities arrested a Chinese ship captain on Monday for not declaring a recent visit to a North Korean port, according to local media.
The captain’s detention was possible under Japan’s stricter autonomous sanctions on the DPRK, which prevent ships from entering Japanese ports if they visited North Korea within the previous six months.
The Palau-flagged Lucky Star 8 stopped at Japan’s Rumoi port in Hokkaido on March 27. According to Japanese authorities, the vessel falsely claimed to have visited a Chinese port between January 29 and February 1, when it was really in the DPRK’s eastern port of Taean. Despite the arrest the vessel has now left the port, the NK News vessel tracker shows.
Tokyo-based Kyodo News reported the vessel’s visit to North Korea was uncovered during an inspection of the vessel, though no inspection records have yet been uploaded to the local Port State Control (PSC) authority’s website.
Data from Marine Traffic shows the vessel also visited South Korea’s Pohang port immediately prior to its arrival in Japan. South Korea enacted similar measures on ships coming from the DPRK on March 8.
Under Seoul’s new legislation, vessels which have visited North Korea in the last 180 days are not allowed to enter South Korean ports. Ships known to be controlled by Pyongyang and flying flags of convenience (FOCs) are also barred, though the Ministry of Unification (MoU) did not publicly specify the vessels that would be affected by the measures.
The Lucky Star 8 arrived in Pohang on March 23, less than two months after its stop in North Korea, and sailed for Japan four days later. It was not inspected during the stay, but South Korean authorities told NK News that the sanctions are not applied retroactively.
“South Korea’s own sanction only applies to any ships that stopped over in North Korean ports after 3 p.m., March 8, 2016. The ship that stopped over in North Korea before (that) date is not barred from entering unless it is on the list of banned ships from the UN,” Kang Kyung-deok at the Ministry of Ocean and Fishery’s Port Management Division said.
The clarification means that vessels are not currently banned from South Korean ports if they have visited North Korean ports within the last 180 days, but only since March 8. The 180-day limit will subsequently be fully applicable from September 4.
The ship is part of a relatively large group of vessels with ties to North Korea, though gauging the extent of the links can be difficult. The DPRK is known to use numerous techniques to skirt sanctions, including using flags and crew services from different countries, but many vessels could also be owned or operated by Chinese companies with legitimate business interests in North Korea.
The Equasis Maritime Database claims the Lucky Star 8’s owner is the Taiwan based Wisdom Marine International shipping, but when contacted by NK News the company denied ownership.
Port inspection records list a different company called Sunny International, a Hong Kong-based company which has no website or contact details.
Additional reporting by Jiwon Song
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