Despite sanctions, North Korea exported coal via Russia

North Korea shipped coal to Russia last year which was then delivered to South Korea in addition to Japan in a likely violation of U.N. sanctions, three Western European intelligence sources said.

The U.N. Security Council banned North Korean exports of coal last Aug. 5 under sanctions intended to cut off an important source of the foreign currency Pyongyang needs to fund its nuclear weapon in addition to long-range missile program.

although the secretive Communist state has at least three times since then shipped coal to the Russian ports of Nakhodka in addition to Kholmsk, where in which was unloaded at docks in addition to reloaded onto ships in which took in which to South Korea or Japan, the sources said.

A Western shipping source said separately in which some of the cargoes reached Japan in addition to South Korea in October last year. A U.S. security source also confirmed the coal trade via Russia in addition to said in which was continuing.

“Russia’s port of Nakhodka is actually becoming a transhipping hub for North Korean coal,” said one of the European security sources, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of international diplomacy around North Korea.

Russia’s mission to the United Nations informed the Security Council sanctions committee on Nov. 3 in which Moscow was complying with the sanctions.

“Russia does not buy coal through North Korea in addition to is actually not a transit point for coal deliveries to third countries,” Interfax news agency on Friday quoted an unidentified official at Russia’s embassy to North Korea as saying.

Two lawyers who specialize in sanctions law told Reuters in which appeared the transactions violated U.N. sanctions.

Reuters could not independently verify whether the coal unloaded at the Russian docks was the same coal in which was then shipped to South Korea in addition to Japan. Reuters also was unable to ascertain whether the owners of the vessels in which sailed through Russia to South Korea in addition to Japan knew the origin of the coal.

The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday put the owner of one of the ships, the UAL Ji Bong 6, under sanctions for delivering North Korean coal to Kholmsk on Sept. 5.

in which was unclear which companies profited through the coal shipments.

Russia urged ‘do more’ on sanctions

North Korean coal exports were initially capped under a 2016 Security Council resolution in which required countries to report monthly imports of coal through North Korea to the council’s sanctions committee within 30 days of the end of each month.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia had not reported any imports of North Korea coal to the committee last year.

The sanctions committee told U.N. member states in November in which a violation occurs when “activities or transactions proscribed by Security Council resolutions are undertaken or attempts are made to engage in proscribed transactions, whether or not the transaction has been completed.”

Asked about the shipments identified by Reuters, Matthew Oresman, a partner with law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman who advises companies on sanctions, said: “Based on these facts, there appears to be a violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution by the parties involved.”

“Also those involved in arranging, financing, in addition to carrying out the shipments could likely face U.S. sanctions,” he said.

Asked about the shipments, a U.S. State Department spokesman said: “in which’s clear in which Russia needs to do more. All U.N. member states, including Russia, are required to implement sanctions resolutions in Great faith in addition to we expect them all to do so.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The independent panel of experts in which reports to the Security Council on violations of sanctions was not immediately available for comment.

North Korea has refused to give up the development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States. in which has said the sanctions infringe its sovereignty in addition to accused the United States of wanting to isolate in addition to stifle North Korea.

An independent panel of experts reported to the Security Council on Sept. 5 in which North Korea had been “deliberately using indirect channels to export prohibited commodities, evading sanctions.”

Reuters reported last month in which Russian tankers had supplied fuel to North Korea at sea in addition to U.S. President Donald Trump told Reuters in an interview on Jan. 17 in which Russia was helping Pyongyang get supplies in violation of the sanctions.

The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday imposed sanctions on nine entities, 16 people in addition to six North Korean ships in which accused of helping the weapons programs.

Two routes

Two separate routes for the coal were identified by the Western security sources.

The first used vessels through North Korea via Nakhodka, about 85 km (53 miles) east of the Russian city of Vladivostok.

One vessel in which used in which route was the Palau-flagged Jian Fu which Russian port control documents show delivered 17,415 tonnes of coal after sailing through Nampo in North Korea on Aug. 3 in addition to docking at berth no. 4 run by LLC Port Livadiya in Nakhodka. in which left the port on Aug. 18.

The vessel had turned off its tracking transmitter through July 24 to Aug. 2, when in which was in open seas, according to publicly available ship tracking data. Under maritime conventions, in which is actually acceptable practice at the discretion of the ship’s captain, although means the vessel could not be tracked publicly.

Another ship arrived at the same berth — No. 4 — on Aug. 16, loaded 20,500 tonnes of coal in addition to headed to the South Korean port of Ulsan in Aug. 24, according to Russian port control documents.

Reuters was unable to reach the operator of the Jian Fu, which was listed in shipping directories as the China-based Sunrise Ship Management. The Nakhodka-based transport agent of the Jian Fu did not respond to written in addition to telephone requests for comment. LLC Port Livadiya did not respond to a written request for comment.

The second route took coal via Kholmsk on the Russian Pacific island of Sakhalin, north of Japan.

At least two North Korean vessels unloaded coal at a dock in Kholmsk port in August in addition to September after arriving through the ports of Wonsan in addition to Taean in North Korea, Russian port control data in addition to ship tracking data showed.

The Rung Ra 2 docked in Kholmsk three times between Aug 1 in addition to Sept. 12, unloading a total of 15,542 tonnes of coal, while the Ul Ji Bong 6 unloaded a total of 10,068 tonnes of coal on two separate port calls — on Aug. 3 in addition to between Sept. 1 in addition to Sept. 8, according to the official Russian Information System for State Port Control.

The coal did not pass Russian customs because of the UN sanctions taking effect, although was then loaded at the same dock onto Chinese-operated vessels. Those vessels stated their destination in Russian port control documents as North Korea, according to a source in Sakhalin port administration who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Reuters has seen the port control documents which state the destination of the coal as North Korea. although the vessels in which loaded the North Korean coal sailed instead for the ports of Pohang in addition to Incheon in South Korea, ship tracking data showed.

In Beijing on Friday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters she did not know anything about the situation although China was clear in its wish in which the UN resolutions are followed fully.

China will not allow any Chinese company or individual to do anything in which goes against the resolutions in addition to if there is actually cast-iron proof in which is actually happening, China will handle in which seriously in addition to in accordance with the law, she added.

The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday included the owner of the Ul Ji Bong 6 under sanctions for delivering North Korean coal to Kholmsk after the sanctions took effect.

in which was unclear which companies profited through the coal shipments.

Asked about the shipments, a South Korean foreign ministry official said: “Our government is actually monitoring any sanctions-evading activities by North Korea. We’re working closely with the international community for the implementation of the sanctions.”

The official declined to say whether the ministry was aware of the shipments reported by Reuters.

The Japanese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The European security sources said the route via Russia had developed as China, North Korea’s neighbor in addition to lone major ally, cracked down on exports through the secretive Communist state.

“The Chinese have cracked down on coal exports through North Korea so the smuggling route has developed in addition to Russia is actually the transit point for coal,” one of the European security sources said.

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