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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 on Thursday published further evidence of ongoing ship-to-ship (STS) transfers involving North Korean vessels in violation of existing UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions against the country.
The transfer appears to have taken place on the afternoon of January 18 in the East China Sea around 410 kilometers off the coast of Shanghai, Tokyo said.
While the Japanese Ministry of Defense could not identify the name or nationality of one of the ships involved, it asserted that the North Korean vessel was the An San 1.
“Judging from the fact that the two vessels lay alongside each other and connected hoses, both vessels could have been engaged in some type of activity. Following a comprehensive assessment, the Government of Japan strongly suspects that they conducted ship-to-ship transfers banned by United Nations Security Council Resolution,” the Ministry of Defense statement read.
“Japan notified the Security Council Committee of this incident and shared information with related countries,” the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs added on their website.
The An San 1 was designated by the UNSC in March of 2018 and is already subject to an asset freeze and port entry ban.
Both the ship and the Korea Ansan Shipping Company were also designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on February 23 last year in the largest set of maritime sanctions leveled against the DPRK.
Ship-to-ship (STS) transfers are prohibited from taking place under UNSC Resolution 2397 adopted on December 22, 2017.
Resolution 2397 noted “with great concern that the DPRK is illicitly exporting coal and other prohibited items through deceptive maritime practices and obtaining petroleum illegally through ship-to-ship transfers” when issuing the prohibition.
North Korea continued to engaged in such transfers throughout 2018, however, with the U.S. submitting data to the 1718 Committee claiming that the DPRK had conducted as many as 89 STS transfers between January and May 2018.
The report claimed that North Korea had as a result exceeded refined petroleum importation caps also imposed on the country, and urged the suspension of all oil transfers to the DPRK.
But Russia and China blocked the request, and public reporting from the Government of Japan indicated continuing STS transfers involving North Korean vessels throughout the year.
Thursday’s report is the first of its kind published by Japan in 2019.
While Japan has taken the lead in publicly reporting such instances of sanctions evasion, the U.S. also published detailed images of STS transfers in October last year, with Trump calling publicly in September for a halt to such activities.
Aside from Japan and the U.S., other member states have also conducted joint efforts to monitor and disrupt the illicit transfers, including New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and Canada.
North Korea has taken issue with these excursions, on Tuesday calling the monitoring operations a “dangerous provocation.”
“The dispatch of warships mulled over by some countries to the waters around the Korean Peninsula under the pretext of implementing the UNSC ‘sanctions resolutions’ comes to be a dangerous military provocation to infringe upon the sovereignty of the DPRK and incite tension and confrontation,” a Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report read.
Thursday’s report is the second time Japan has published images of the An San 1 involved in STS transfers, with the vessel judged to be breaching sanctions 350 kilometers off the coast of Shanghai in June of 2018.
According to the NK Pro ship tracker, while the An San 1 has largely traveled without broadcasting its location since 2017, the vessel did turn its AIS on within Chinese waters and close to Shanghai in August of 2018 for a period of one to two days.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Japan Ministry of Defense