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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.
The Japanese Government published images on Wednesday showing a North Korean tanker likely involved in two prohibited ship-to-ship (STS) transfers in the East China Sea on June 21 and June 22.
The North Korean vessel – the Yu Phyong 5 – was photographed alongside a vessel of unknown origin on both days.
In the images, hoses connected between the two ships can be clearly seen – indicative of the transfer of oil products.
“Following a comprehensive assessment, the Government of Japan strongly suspects that they conducted ship-to-ship transfers banned by UNSCR,” the press release read.
On the morning of June 21 the AOE Hamana – a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel – observed the Yu Phyong 5 and a vessel of unknown origin lying side-by-side about 440km southeast of Shanghai.
On the morning of June 22, the Hamana again observed the Yu Phyong 5 conducting the same activity 450km southeast of Shanghai with a vessel that it suspects of being the same ship present in the June 21 images.
After the vessel of unknown origin left the area of the suspected STS transfer on June 22, the Hamana observed it hoisting a Chinese flag.
“Japan notified the Security Council Committee of this incident and shared information with related countries. Japan also expressed its interest to China which could have (a) relation to (the) small vessel of unknown nationality,” the press release added.
On September 11, 2017, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted Resolution 2375, which, among other measures, prohibited all STS transfers.
STS transfers linked to North Korea typically involve the transfer of oil products, which are also subject to caps under UNSC resolutions.
The Yu Phyong 5 was designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in February alongside a slew of other vessels and shipping companies for activities related to STS transfers and prohibited commodity trafficking.
It was also subject to sanctions by the UN Security Council on March 30 as it had “imported refined petroleum products to Nampo, DPRK, on 29 November” via an STS transfer.
The Japanese Government has published images of suspected STS transfer involving North Korean vessels on at least seven occasions in 2018, with the most recent images prior to Wednesday having been taken on May 24.
Despite the diplomatic engagement conducted by North Korea in 2018, UNSC sanctions are still in place and are required to be enforced UN member states.
Featured Image: Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force