A South Korean ship suspected of violating North Korea sanctions has been detained in the port city of Busan (pictured). EPA-EFE/JEON HEON-KYUN
SEOUL, April 3 (UPI) -- South Korea's foreign ministry said Wednesday it is handling the case of a local vessel detained for six months for illegal transshipments in consultation with the United States and the United Nations Security Council.
The ship, currently in custody at the South Korean port city of Busan, may have conducted illicit cargo transfer with a North Korean ship at sea, Yonhap reported.
A South Korean diplomatic source told Yonhap the ship has been in custody since October 2018, on charges of violating United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions.
"We are discussing the matter of this ship, which has been detained for more than six months, with the United States and the Security Council," the source said.
U.N. sanctions Resolution 2397 says U.N. member states are obligated to seize and search ships suspected of violating sanctions.
The resolution also states the provision does not apply after six months, if the U.N. sanctions committee decides "adequate arrangements have been made to prevent the vessel from contributing to future violations of these resolutions."
Depending on the discussion's outcome, the ship could be released but closely monitored.
Seoul is also in discussions with the United States and the U.N. sanctions committee on policy regarding three foreign vessels, the Lighthouse Winmore, KOTI and the Togo-flagged ship Talent Ace. The three ships have remained in South Korean custody since 2017-18.
Last year Seoul confirmed three South Korean companies illegally imported North Korean coal and pig iron in 2017. Shipments of North Korean coal into South Korea were smuggled into the country after the products were transshipped at a Russian port.
Japan has been at the forefront of addressing North Korea transshipment cases. Tokyo has previously brought cases of suspected illicit cargo transfer in the East China Sea to the U.N. Security Council, and Japanese authorities have often reported Chinese vessels were involved.
Amid continued friction between the two countries, China is replacing its ambassador to Tokyo for the first time in nine years, NHK reported Wednesday.
Kong Xuanyu, who has been in charge of Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia affairs in Beijing, has been appointed to the top Chinese diplomatic post to Japan.
Kong is ethnic Korean-Chinese, according to South Korean news service Newsis.