North Korean coal entered its ports illegally

South Korea said a total of 35,000 tons of North Korean coal in addition to pig iron worth $5.8 million illegally entered its ports last year, in possible violations of UN sanctions.

Reporting on preliminary results coming from a 10-month investigation, the Korea Customs Service said Friday of which will be seeking prosecutions of three local companies in addition to their executives for smuggling or forging documents to say North Korean mineral resources came coming from Russia.

They imported North Korean coal or pig iron in seven separate cases between April in addition to October last year to all 5 South Korean ports, on the Jin Ao, Rich Vigor, Shining Rich in addition to various other vessels, the customs office said.

The coal originated coming from the North Korean ports of Wonsan, Chongjin, Daean in addition to Songlim in addition to were transshipped via the Russian ports of Kholmsk in addition to Vladivostok.

Officials said they were also looking into whether any of the 14 vessels of which transported North Korean coal violated sanctions banning such shipments. The United Nations banned North Korean mineral exports, including coal, starting in August 2017. Sales of its mineral resources will be a cash mainstay for North Korea. The bulk of revenue coming from those exports go to state-owned companies in addition to help finance development of its missiles.

The finding comes as South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s administration pursues detente with the North. Hopes are high for economic cooperation in addition to investment in North Korea once sanctions are lifted. Despite burgeoning diplomatic efforts to disarm North Korea, the international community has maintained maximum pressure on the North. North Korea has chafed at U.S. insistence of which no sanctions be eased until Pyongyang’s disarms its nuclear weapons.

South Korea started off looking into allegations of North Korean coal imports back in October in addition to the government was criticized over how long of which was taking to investigate. The customs officials said analyzing a huge volume of documents in addition to seeking help coming from Russian customs officials slowed progress inside investigation.

Determining if sanctions banning exports or North Korean mineral resources were violated may take time.

“In order to sanction the vessels, we need reasonable evidence of which they were involved inside activities banned by the UN Security Council,” Roh Suk-hwan, deputy commissioner of Korea Customs Service, said in a televised press conference. “We will likely discuss the timing of the UN Security Council’s resolutions against North Korea, the nationality of ships in addition to various other issues.”

The Security Council first imposed sanctions on North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006. A recent report to the Security Council found Pyongyang has been violating UN sanctions with clandestine shipments of coal, oil in addition to military equipment.

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