SEOUL, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Economic sanctions against Pyongyang keep piling up, but that hasn't stopped a commercial ship from sailing toward North Korea.
Dawnlight, a bulk carrier that travels from Singapore to the Korean peninsula -- suspected of carrying goods to the North, was placed on a U.S. blacklist in 2015, The Washington Post reported.
The ship has since changed hands. Senat, the ship's former Singaporean proprietor, sold the ship for $2.2 million to a Hong Kong-based shipping firm, Bene Star.
Under new ownership, the ship continues to journey across the South China Sea to the Korean peninsula, making the trip nine times in the last few months, according to data analyzed by The Post. The crew has also logged a North Korea port as its destination in past trips.
The ship's former owner said the vessel carries commercial cargo, but the increasing penalties on North Korea trade are turning into an issue for companies that continue to engage in business activities despite international sanctions.
U.N. sanctions do allow for commercial trade, but any item that could abet Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program is strictly banned, raising questions about the legitimacy of Dawnlight's cargo.
Countries staunchly opposed to North Korea's arms buildup, including Japan and South Korea, have recently passed comprehensive sanctions – and new U.S. sanctions impose penalties on third-party individuals and entities engaged in facilitating illegal North Korea activities.
In a move that highlighted Seoul's seriousness about imposing penalties, South Korea shut down a jointly operated factory park in the North, but in the wake of tensions Seoul's spy agency warned of retaliatory "terror attacks" in the South, and has bolstered security for top officials and high-profile defectors.
Voice of America reported Friday that South Korea police are providing extra security and bodyguards for at least seven high-profile defectors who are active in media and vocal about their opposition to the Pyongyang regime.
The defectors, and some senior South Korean officials, are to have security detail with them 24 hours a day, Seoul police said.