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Report: Large coal ship spotted in North Korea

Report: Large coal ship spotted in North Korea
North Korea coal ships may have resumed low levels of activity, according to recent satellite imagery. File Photo by Andrew Wong/UPI | License Photo

April 23 (UPI) -- A large ship used to transport coal was seen in the North Korean port of Nampo, satellite photos taken on Tuesday and Wednesday show.

Planet Labs, a U.S. satellite imaging and analytics company, captured the images of the coal vessel at the port for the first time in two months, Voice of America's Korean service reported Thursday.

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The 155-meter-long ship was moored near a dock for loading coal, according to the report.

Satellite images taken on Wednesday showed the vessel had remained in the same space. Next to the ship were black objects on the pier that resembled coal piles, the report says.

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North Korean coal shipments are under heavy sanctions, but Nampo may have been an active port in 2019. According to South Korean news service News 1, satellite images taken last year show at least 71 ships at the port, with an average of six vessels showing up monthly. The ships disappeared for the first two months of the year, following the first COVID-19 outbreak in China, North Korea's principal trading partner.

North Korea is banned from exporting coal. The United Nations Security Council in August 2017 passed Resolution 2371, which banned all exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood. Any North Korean ships carrying coal to a U.N. member state would be found in violation of sanctions.

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The uptick in North Korean coal shipments is being observed at a time when South Korea continues to reject rumors of Kim Jong Un's ill health.

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The presidential Blue House said Thursday "no specific trends have been identified" in North Korea following unconfirmed reports Kim was in critical condition following surgery.

On Wednesday the U.S. military deployed spy plane Rivet Joint to the Korean Peninsula, following the deployment of other surveillance aircraft, including the E-8C and the P-3C near North Korea this week, according to tracking site Aircraft Spot.

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