Australia and New Zealand will provide support to Japan’s Ministry of Defense in monitoring North Korea’s illicit maritime activities, Tokyo said on Friday.
The two countries will provide support aircraft to the operation, helping Japanese forces which have observed numerous instances of sanctioned North Korean trade at sea.
“Partner countries, in addition to the U.S., have decided again to engage in monitoring and surveillance activities against illicit maritime activities, including ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean-flagged vessels prohibited by UNSCRs,” a statement from Japan’s foreign ministry said.
“At present, Australia and New Zealand are planning to deploy patrol aircraft and engage in the activities subject to UN Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).”
Tokyo has published numerous photographs of North Korean oil tankers apparently receiving oil products at sea, in breach of UN resolutions.
While oil shipments to North Korea are not fully embargoed by the international community, oil exports to the DPRK must be below a certain threshold and reported to the UN.
In addition to being dangerous, the transfers at sea also make it challenging to accurately gauge how much oil North Korea is receiving.
Tokyo said it welcomed the support from other countries which helps maintain “the solidarity of international community for the realization of North Korea’s dismantlement of all WMD and ballistic missiles in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner.”
“The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Japan Coast Guard are also conducting information gathering activities for vessels suspected to be in the violation of UNSCRs, and Japan will work closely with related countries,” the foreign ministry statement added.
Data provided to the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) on North Korea indicated that the ship-to-ship transfers were not isolated incidents.
According to the figures, the U.S. had observed 89 such sanctions breaking transfers between January and May this year, while a leaked mid-year PoE report claimed frequency of the transfers had increased.
North Korea “continued to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, as well as through transfers of coal at sea during 2018,” several media outlets said in early August, quoting the leaked report.
The most recent publicly available report of the transfers came on July 31, when Japan’s Ministry of Defense released photographs of a sanctioned North Korea oil tanker receiving oil from a vessel of unknown nationality.
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Featured Image: 170717-N-WF272-057 by Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet on 2017-07-17 08:59:23