One month after Washington unveiled new sanctions targeting the DPRK’s shipping industry, vessels belonging to one of the newly-designated companies were still visiting South Korea, the NK Pro ship tracker shows.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added a Hong Kong-based company called Liberty Shipping to its blacklist on February 23, along with an advisory warning countries about the DPRK’s deceptive maritime practices.
In an accompanying statement released on the same day, South Korea Korea’s foreign ministry said it would closely cooperate with the U.S. on its “maximum pressure” campaign.
“Recent U.S. OFAC sanctions against the DPRK reaffirm the willingness to resolve the DPRK’s nuclear issues peacefully and diplomatically,” the statement read.
“Our government sees it as a part of efforts towards the denuclearization of the DPRK through tough sanctions and pressure.”
But despite the measures, at the time of publication Liberty Shipping’s Gang Tong Hai 9 cargo ship was in South Korea’s Incheon port, where it was inspected and deemed a “high risk” ship on safety and environmental grounds.
The Belize flagged freighter is totally owned by Liberty, though its listed owner is a paper company called Dalian Gangtong Shipping which gives a care of address back to the sanctioned Hong Kong-based outfit.
A previous NK Pro investigation outlined North Korea’s various ties to Liberty Shipping and its previous shareholders’ connections to DPRK sanctions evasion.
Another of Liberty’s vessels and a frequent visitor to South Korea was formerly owned by Korea Kunhae, a North Korean company working with Japanese and Chinese nationals whose names frequently appear alongside the most egregious sanctions violations.
A second cargo ship owned by Liberty – the Dong Fang Yang Ming – has also visited South Korea on multiple occasions since the new OFAC designations, and was last in Incheon port on March 5.
Although OFAC vessel designations do not result in port bans like those issued by the UN Security Council, the Treasury Department’s accompanying advisory suggested that Washington expected countries in the region to wind up their operations with designated companies.
Liberty’s continuing presence in South Korea – and neighboring Japan – suggests local companies and banks continue to do business with the designated company, potentially making themselves targets for Washington’s maximum pressure campaign.
“(The Treasury Department’s) guidance put the entire shipping industry on notice,” Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President at Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former Treasury sanctions analyst, told NK Pro last month.
“(It) makes it clear how we view this problem and how we expect other countries to behave if they want to stay off the sanctions lists themselves.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham