Chinese Ships Spotted Selling Oil to N.Korea

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.   AP

South Korea's customs service concluded that the Lighthouse Winmore had loaded about 14,000 tons of Japanese refined petroleum products in South Korea on October 11, reportedly bound for Taiwan, the official said.

Ship-to-ship trade with North Korea on the high seas is forbidden in UNSC Resolution 2375 adopted in September, but such violations are almost impossible to detect unless China aggressively cracks down on smuggling.

United States President Donald Trump on Thursday said he was "very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea" and that such moves would prevent "a friendly solution" to the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

South Korea said Friday that it was holding a Hong Kong-flagged ship and its crew members for allegedly violating United Nations sanctions by transferring oil to a North Korean vessel in October.

The UN Security Council on Thursday meanwhile denied global port access to four North Korean ships suspected of carrying or having transported goods banned by worldwide sanctions targeting Pyongyang, diplomats told AFP.

The Lighthouse Winmore, which the USA recently called to be on a United Nations blacklist of ships involved with North Korea, was seized and inspected at the Yeosu port in late November, according to news agency Yonhap.

The U.S. Treasury Department placed six North Korean shipping and trading companies and 20 of their ships on sanctions list on November 21, when it published spy satellite images taken on October 19 showing a ship named Ryesonggang 1 connected to a Chinese vessel.

Four ships - three North Korean vessels and a Palau-flagged oil tanker - were blocked from worldwide ports by the UN Security Council on Thursday over suspicions of carrying or transporting goods banned by sanctions targeting Pyongyang's weapons ambitions, according to the final list adopted by the world body.

"China on trade has ripped off this country more than any other element of the world in history has ripped off anything", Trump said.

"There is no record of the (Chinese) vessel visiting a Chinese port" since August, Hua said.

A photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows launching of the Hwasong-15 missile.

The US president later told the New York Times that he saw a report on the situation on Fox News that morning.

China has denied any involvement in the and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said "we will never allow Chinese citizens and enterprises to engage in activities that violate Security Council resolutions".

She added: "If there is solid evidence proving that there is on the Chinese side any violation of the Security Council resolutions, China will surely deal with it in accordance with laws and regulations, and not a single case of violation should get away with it".

Harry Kazianis, director of defence studies at the conservative Center for the National Interest, said China would "never, ever, enforce the sanctions to the satisfaction of President Trump", in spite of the effort the U.S. president had invested in developing a personal relationship with China's Xi Jinping. "China can help us much more, and they have to help us much more".

US Democratic Senator Ed Markey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Twitter the North Korean threat had only increased since Trump took office and he had to find a way to get China to cut off crude oil supplies.

China and Russian Federation subsequently asked for more time to consider the proposal.

North Korea has come under heavy sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council as it accelerated efforts to expand its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program.

In recent months, Trump's administration has praised Beijing for its efforts to tame North Korea.

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