UN sanctioned ship appears near Myanmar
The vessel appeared to be headed for Yangon, though there are no docking records
A UN and U.S. sanctioned vessel briefly broadcast its location approaching the Myanmar coastline on Thursday, before disappearing again from tracking systems.
Previous NK Pro reports have tracked the sanctioned vessel’s continued journeys around Asian waters, even though its sanctioned status should prevent it from entering non-DPRK ports.
The 10,000-tonne Hua Fu cargo ship seems to sporadically appear near coastlines, previously broadcasting its positions near the Phillippines and China, though the latest position is further afield.
The Hua Fu appeared at the mouth of the Yangon River, with its course indicative that it was headed towards the Myanmar capital on September 26.
But berthing lists and port arrival schedules for September 26 and 27 do not register the vessel’s presence in the area, making it difficult to gauge its eventual destination via open-source methods.
The Hua Fu’s visit to the is not the first time suspicious DPRK vessels have visited Myanmar, with numerous reports several years ago highlighting possible North Korean missile deliveries.
There have been fewer reports of military cooperation between the two countries recently, though in their most recent mid-year report, the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) noted that Myanmar did not receive replies to requests for information on the topic.
In an earlier report published in March 2019, the PoE noted that Myanmar claimed there were no military exchanges with the DPRK, though also added that Myanmar had not answered questions regarding possible missile cooperation.
“The Panel has not yet received a reply to its January 2018 request for documentation of contracts relating to military cooperation, including ballistic missile cooperation since October 2006,” the PoE wrote in their March report.
“The Panel also requested evidence of the return of all Myanmar technicians from the DPRK, as well as the departure of all DPRK technicians from Myanmar.”
UN resolutions currently bar the Hua Fu from port entry, while Panama’s maritime authority has also removed the ship from their registry in line with UN requirements.
The ship should no longer be able to obtain the necessary paperwork or international flag registration to sail and trade internationally, though it still appears to broadcast to tracking systems with a Panama flag.
Speaking to NK News earlier this year, the PoE’s former maritime expert Neil Watts said the vessel could be using forged documentation to obfuscate its sanctioned status and continue to sail internationally.
“(The Hua Fu is) seemingly un-flagged right now,” he said.
“What happens is that they fake a flag or they used their old documents because the documents were originally valid and they are original. But because time elapsed after they were deregistered, port authorities aren’t necessarily aware that the vessel is no longer part of that flag.”
The ship was sanctioned for its role in smuggling North Korean coal, with a UN member state providing the PoE with photographic evidence of one such transfer in the Gulf of Tonkin, near Vietnam.
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