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Ships violating UN restrictions docked in Japan

Tokyo’s suggestion of sanctions-busting turned back on itself

Aug 22,2019
Three vessels banned by the South Korean government from entering local ports last August after they were found to have smuggled North Korean coal into the country - which is a violation of international sanctions - docked in Japan seven times after the ban went into effect, a Japanese news outlet reported Wednesday.

The Nikkei Asian Review did not explicitly say Tokyo violated international sanctions by importing North Korean coal but raised the possibility that Japan could have allowed Pyongyang to use its ports to dodge a United Nations embargo.

The report did not explain what the vessels contained when they arrived in Japan.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2371, which was unanimously adopted on Aug. 5, 2017 at the height of Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile provocations, imposed a ban on the export of North Korean resources including coal, iron, lead and seafood.

The news report reverberates because Tokyo, in justifying export restrictions against Korea last month, alleged that Seoul may have violated sanctions by importing strategic goods from Japan only to smuggle them into the North. If Japan turned a blind eye to forbidden North Korean coal imports, as the Nikkei Asian Review report suggests, South Korea could accuse it of hypocrisy.

Citing data from Tokyo MOU, an intergovernmental organization that monitors ship inspections, Nikkei reported that the three ships are thought to have transported North Korean coal via Russia to disguise its real origin and evade the embargo.

The Togo-flagged Ga Hong, which previously sailed under a Belize flag as the Shining Rich, docked in Japan’s Hokkaido Prefecture and another Japanese port in October, in Niigata Prefecture in central Japan in December and in Akita Prefecture in June. After each visit, the vessel made stops in Russia or China, the report pointed out.

The Belize-flagged Jin Long made three stops in Japanese ports between September and December while visiting China and Russia in between.

The Sierra Leone-flagged Rich Glory entered a port in Kagoshima in early September then sailed to Russia.

Japanese transport authorities were said to have checked the vessels each time but found “no violations to support seizing them,” implying they couldn’t detect traces of North Korean coal.

It’s not the first time Tokyo has been suspected of breaking North Korean sanctions. UN experts on North Korean sanctions, in the past, have called out Japan numerous times in their reports, accusing the country of routinely violating sanctions by overlooking exports of banned goods like luxury items and mechanical equipment that can be used for military use.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]


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