South Korea has impounded a Hong Kong-registered oil tanker suspected of having secretly transferred refined oil to a North Korean vessel, thus violating United Nations sanctions, South Korean officials announced on Friday.
The officials said that Hong Kong-flagged oil tanker Lighthouse Winmore had docked at the South Korean port of Yeosu on October 11 to load 14,039 tons of refined petroleum from Japan, according The New York Times. A few days later, the tanker set sail from Yeosu en route to Taiwan. But instead of reaching Taiwan, the ship transferred refined oil to four other vessels on international waters, including 600 tons of refined oil to North Korean ship Sam Jong 2 on October 19, South Korea’s officials said.
Upon Lighthouse Winmore’s return to the South Korean port at the end of November, authorities boarded the ship and questioned its 25-member crew including 23 Chinese citizens and two Myanmar residents. South Korea officially impounded the oil tanker after the United Nations Security Council adopted on December 22 tougher sanctions regarding oil sale to North Korea. In this resolution, the UN requires “Member States to seize, inspect and freeze any vessel in their ports and territorial waters for involvement in prohibited activities.”
The South Korean announcement comes just a day after U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that he was “very disappointed” that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. “There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!” President Trump tweeted.
Earlier this week, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo reported that U.S. recon satellites photographed around 30 illegal transactions involving Chinese vessels selling oil to North Korea on the West Sea in October. Related: Oil Prices Steady After EIA Reports Crude Draw
There was no immediate evidence of Chinese involvement in the suspected transfer of oil by the ship seized by South Korea, The NYT reports.
In an interview with NYT published on Thursday, President Trump said for the first time explicitly that he had “been soft” on China on trade and expressed frustration at the reported illicit Chinese oil shipments to North Korea.
“Oil is going into North Korea. That wasn’t my deal!” President Trump told NYT. “If they don’t help us with North Korea, then I do what I’ve always said I want to do,” he added.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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