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Seoul seizes Hong Kong vessel for North Korea sanctions violation

By Elizabeth Shim
Seoul seizes Hong Kong vessel for North Korea sanctions violation
One of the North Korean vessels that were receiving fuel shipments in international waters was captured in satellite images taken Oct. 19. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Treasury/Yonhap

Dec. 29 (UPI) -- South Korea has seized a ship that may have transferred refined oil products to a North Korean vessel at sea.

The Lighthouse Winmore, a Hong Kong-flagged ship leased by a Taiwanese company, is being detained after loading 600 tons of refined products onto North Korean vessel Sam Jong No. 2, Seoul's foreign ministry said Friday, according to News 1.

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United Nations Security Council sanctions Resolution 2375 bans the transfer of goods to North Korean ships.

The Lighthouse Winmore had loaded with refined products of Japanese origin at the South Korean port city of Yeosu on Oct. 11, then left the South on Oct. 15.

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On Oct. 19, the Hong Kong-based vessel was moving the products at sea to the Sam Jong and three other vessels in international waters, according to Yonhap.

South Korea's customs service seized the ship on Nov. 24, when it re-entered Yeosu.

The news of the detained ship comes at a time when satellite images of North Korea's coal-handling ports are showing no signs of supply or activity, Voice of America reported Thursday.

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The satellite images, taken by Earth-imaging firm Planet, show an area near the Taedong River that includes Nampo, Taean and Songlim ports, which have all shown a substantial decrease in activity, according to the report.

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Nampo Port now sees only sporadic activity, and one vessel would enter the area only once or twice a month between April and November 2017, images show.

The once coal-saturated port of Taean also appears to be depleted, with no coal supply visible at the surface.

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Coal exports slowed after the adoption of U.N. Security Council sanctions Resolution 2371 in November 2016, and China began to implement sanctions in February.

China came under criticism after accepting shipments of North Korean coal briefly in August and September.

U.S. President Trump recently condemned Beijing for allowing oil shipments to North Korea.

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