South Korea has seized a second vessel suspected of carrying oil to the impoverished North Korean regime and most of its crew members are thought to be nationals of China and Myanmar.
The Panama-flagged vessel was reported to be transferring oil to a North Korean ship at sea in violation of UN regulations – just like the first vessel which was reportedly carrying out a similar transfer. The first one, a Hong Kong-registered vessel, had supplied as much as 600 tonnes of refined petroleum to a North Korean vessel in the East China Sea waters and was seized after that.
In the latest development, the 5,100-tonne KOTI has been confiscated by South Korean authorities and kept in the western port of Pyeongtaek-Dangjin in Gyeonggi Province. Seoul's foreign ministry is yet to receive information about the seizure from the customs department.
The vessel was stopped from leaving the port on 21 December, according to the Yonhap news agency. Seoul's intelligence agency is also involved in the probe.
"The actions taken will be reported to the UNSC [UN Security Council] sanctions committee on North Korea in the future," an official was quoted as saying earlier. "This marks a typical case of North Korea shrewdly circumventing UNSC sanctions by using its illegal networks." China had previously denied it had any knowledge of the alleged transfer.
North Korea is reeling under severe economic sanctions engineered by the UNSC because of the relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons by the Kim Jong-un regime. The country has been all finding all sorts of ways to raise money to fund its ambitious nuclear and weapons programmes.