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At least six Chinese cargo ships violated United Nations sanctions by delivering oil to North Korea in December, according to a new Wall Street Journal report.
U.S. intelligence photographs show Chinese-owned or operated ships heading to North Korean ports last month, contradicting claims by Beijing that the nation had stayed true to its commitments under the new sanctions. The violator ships have been identified by name.
China had agreed to halt fuel shipments as part of an international effort to pressure Pyongyang to forfeit its nuclear weapons and long-range missiles program.
After entering North Korean ports, the ships either transported an unspecified type of illicit cargo to Russia and Vietnam or made ship-to-ship transfers while on water.
The U.S. evidence also shows the ships endeavoring to disguise their activities, officials say. Certain vessels purposely turned off their Automatic Identification Systems (AIS), which could prove to be dangerous, as demonstrated by the recent collision of an Iranian and Chinese tanker in the East China Sea. Both ships’ tracking systems had been offline at the time of the crash for unknown reasons.
“When AIS is off in a vast sea, you are basically invisible,” Ioannis Sgouras, a veteran Greek captain of crude-oil carriers, told the WSJ. “You can still be picked up by other ships on radar if you are in range, but they can’t tell the ship’s name, cargo or destination.”
Oil supplies have been the focus of U.S. sanction efforts, but China has long been wary of cutting off North Korea’s oil. After the latest missile test by North Korea at the end of November, the U.S. intensified its pressure on Beijing. Among the options that are being considered, sources say, is destroying a missile launch site before a launch or destroying weapon stockpiles.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…