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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
The UN Security Council’s (UNSC) 1718 Committee on Tuesday adopted new North Korea-related designations against three vessels on suspicion of engaging in illegal ship-to-ship (STS) oil transfers.
The three tankers, the North Korea-flagged Kum Un San 3 and the Panama-flagged Shang Yuan Bao and New Regent, are subject to de-flagging and prohibited from entering the ports of UN member states in accordance with past UNSC sanctions resolutions, according to a press release.
Their assets will not be frozen, however, as has been the case for some ships in previous UN designations.
Rules prohibiting STS transfers in oil and other items conducted with DPRK-flagged ships were first enacted under UNSC Resolution 2375 adopted last September, and were strengthened under Resolution 2397 passed in December.
According Tuesday’s press release, the New Regent and Kum Un San 3 were designated for STS transfers “likely in oil” with each other conducted on June 7.
It was also previously identified by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in November last year for its role in STS transfers.
The New Regent had not previously appeared in any U.S. or UN sanctions lists.
The other newly-designated ship – the Shang Yuan Bao – was also listed for suspected STS oil transfers, with the previously-designated DPRK vessel Paek Ma on May 18 and the as yet un-designated ship the Myong Ryu 1 on June 2.
The Paek Ma was previously sanctioned in March 30-dated 1718 Committee designations, freezing its assets and prohibiting it from port entry. It was not subject to de-flagging, however.
It was also added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list on February 23.
The Shang Yuan Bao’s other STS partner, the Myong Ryu 1, was first identified by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as having engaged in late-May STS transfers in a June 1 notice.
That report came just one day before the June 2 transfer identified in Tuesday’s UN report as evidence worthy of landing the Shang Yuan Bao on the designations list.
The Myong Ryu 1’s flag or ownership has yet to be identified and it has not yet been designated by the U.S. or UN.
Like the New Regent, the Shang Yuan Bao had not been identified prior to Tuesday by the U.S. or UN in relation to illicit oil transfers with the DPRK.
Both the newly-designated Panama-flagged ships have ties to Taiwanese companies.
The New Regent is currently managed by Kaohsiung-based Ocean Grow International Shipmanagement Consultant Corp., according to information on the company’s website and the Equasis shipping database.
The Shang Yuan Bao’s current management, on the other hand, is unknown, though it was registered by the Kaohsiung, ROC-based Jui Cheng Shipping Company as recently as early 2016, according to Equasis.
Tuesday’s new designations follow a recent push from the U.S. and its allies for enhanced enforcement of existing UN sanctions prohibiting ship-to-ship transfers, with President Donald Trump insisting last month call for the practice to “end immediately.”
“The safety of the Korean peninsula, the region, and the world depends on full compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. Very, very important,” the President told a UNSC special meeting on non-proliferation on September 26.
Most recently, Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Monday pointed to joint multilateral efforts to monitor the seas and crack down on STS transfers, saying that “sanctions patrols to enforce the unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution sanctions, specifically on ship-to-ship transfer, are being maintained.”
“On a steady basis we have a number of countries helping on that. I think it’s up to five countries right now,” he said, adding that “the information-sharing among those countries is going well.”
The Wall Street Journal reported in mid-September that seven countries – Japan, South Korea, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and France – would contribute personnel, warships, and surveillance aircraft to aid in the efforts.
Edited by Oliver Hotham