South Korea and China may technically have breached UN resolutions by allowing vessels owned by companies under United Nations sanctions into their ports, analysis by NK News shows.
The UN added 22 companies to its blacklist on March 30, including several companies based outside of the DPRK’s borders.
One of the newly sanctioned companies – Huaxing Shipping Hong Kong – was designated for transporting North Korean coal in breach of UN resolutions.
The Hong Kong company is listed as both the manager and safety manager of the ship, while its owner Tan XJ gives a care of address back to Huaxing, a common company structure for vessels involved with North Korea.
Although not all the company’s ships were blacklisted, UN resolution 2270 still calls on member states to prohibit vessels owned by designated companies from entering their ports.
“Member States shall prohibit the entry into their ports of any vessel if the Member State has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe the vessel is owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by a designated individual or entity,” paragraph 22 reads.
Despite the resolution’s wording, one of Huaxing’s ships, the Belize-flagged Xin Yang 688 arrived in South Korea’s Busan Port on Wednesday, the NK Pro ship tracker shows.
A source at Busan Port told NK News that the Xin Yang 688 was allowed to dock as the ship was not sanctioned, and that the port authority would have received a warning from the South Korean government not to allow it to enter if it were.
The 5300-tonne cargo ship has visited South Korea twice since its designation, historical records show, and has also visited various ports in neighboring China.
Previous reports from NK Pro indicated that South Korean port authorities had allowed vessels designated by the U.S. into their ports, though Washington’s sanctions do not call for port bans or asset freezes.
The same typically goes for China, which generally does not recognize the U.S. Treasury Department’s unilateral sanctions, though pays more attention to the UN’s maritime restrictions.
But a second vessel, the Sierra Leone-flagged Dong Feng 1 has exhibited similar behavior, arriving at a small port on China’s eastern coastline several times since its owner was designated.
Much as with Huaxing, the Dong Feng 1’s owner Shanghai Dongfeng Shipping was blacklisted for smuggling the DPRK’s coal in violation of UN resolutions prohibiting the practice.
The Dong Feng 1’s previous locations are also difficult to track, with the vessel sporadically appearing and disappearing on maritime tracking systems, an indication the vessel is traveling without broadcasting its location in breach of maritime laws.
The activity indicates that sanctioned companies can continue operating by using their non-blacklisted vessels, a further complication in the already murky waters of maritime sanctions enforcement.
Additional reporting by Tia Han
Edited by Oliver Hotham