Tokyo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Tuesday released photos of a suspected ship-to-ship transfer involving a North Korean vessel, the third case in a month of the illicit trade being caught on camera by Japanese authorities.
In a statement, the foreign ministry said the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF)’s P-3C aircraft and the escort vessel SENDAI spotted the possibly illicit transaction in the East China Sea on Friday afternoon.
The North Korean flagged tanker Yu Jong 2 was spotted “lying alongside a small vessel of unknown nationality” around 250 km from Shanghai.
In photos taken by the Ministry of Defense (MOD), the vessel is marked “Min Ning De You 078,” which the MOFA said means “Fujian Province, Ningde City, oil tanker 078.”
“Judging from the fact that the two vessels lay alongside each other and connected hoses, both vessels could have been engaged in some type of activity,” the MOFA said.
“Following a comprehensive assessment, the Government of Japan strongly suspects that they conducted ship-to-ship transfers banned by the UNSCR (United Nations Security Council Resolution).”
The UNSCR 2375, unanimously adopted in September 2017 in the wake of Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test, banned all ship-to-ship transfers.
“…all Member States shall prohibit their nationals, persons…, entities…, and vessels flying their flag, from facilitating or engaging in ship-to-ship transfers to or from DPRK-flagged vessels of any goods or items that are being supplied, sold, or transferred to or from the DPRK.”
The Yu Jong 2 has not broadcast its Automatic Identification Signal (AIS) since June last year, according to the NK Pro ship tracker, and is listed as being owned by the Korea Yujong Shipping Company.
The release of the photos is the third by Japanese authorities in the last month.
The Japanese government said there was “strong suspicion” the two had engaged in an illicit ship-to-ship transfer.
In mid-February, Tokyo released photos of another possible ship-to-ship transaction, again between the Rye Song Gang No. 1 and a Belize flagged named the Wan Heng.
“The frequency with which these sanctioned transfers are occurring cast further doubt on how much oil North Korea is receiving from abroad,” Leo Byrne, Data and Analytic Director at NK News, said on Wednesday.
“Presumably not every ship to ship transfer is witnessed or recorded, indicating that the DPRK’s maritime oil trade could be alive and well.”
Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono last Friday called on the international community to take greater steps to interdict illegal maritime activity.
Japan’s MOFA said Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Kono had “noted the necessity of addressing North Korea’s use of ‘ship-to-ship transfer’ and other methods for sanctions evasion” in a statement issued after a recent meeting.
“The two ministers shared the view that Japan and Singapore will work closely together to prevent Southeast Asia from becoming a loophole for the sanctions regime.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD)
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