Chinese firms involved in illegal transshipping of N. Korean coal: report

SEOUL, July 18 (Yonhap) -- An American broadcaster on Wednesday raised suspicions that China may have played a role in the illegal shipment of North Korean coal to South Korea via Russia last year.

Voice of America (VOA) reported that two Panama and Sierra Leone-registered ships used in October 2017 to transport the North's coal exports, banned under United Nations sanctions, were actually run by Chinese companies.

Citing safety inspection data of the Port State Control Committee in the Asia-Pacific Region, VOA said that the two vessels were operated by companies with addresses in China.

The Panama-registered Sky Angel, which shipped North Korean coal from Russia's Kholmsk to South Korea's Incheon on Oct. 2, was operated by Dalian Sky Ocean International Shipping Agency, whose address was in Zhongshan District in Dalian, Liaoning Province, China, and whose telephone and fax numbers began with "86," the country code used by China, the report said.

The Sierra Leone-registered Rich Glory, which entered the South Korean port of Pohang with the North's coal on Oct. 11, was operated by Chinese company Sanhe Marine with an address in Dalian. It added that the Sky Angel changed its flag from Panama to Vanuatu in April this year.

The Sky Angel and the Rich Glory entered Incheon and the South Korean port of Gunsan, respectively, in February this year to undergo safety checks but were not interned, the report said.

Earlier this week, the VOA cited an annual report submitted by an expert panel under the U.N. sanctions committee, which said that North Korea's coal shipped to the Russian port of Kholmsk was reloaded and sent to Incheon and Pohang on Oct. 2 and Oct. 11, 2017, respectively. According to the U.N. report, North Korean coal had been shipped from the North's ports of Wonsan and Chongjin to Kholmsk on six occasions between July and September last year.

Under U.N. Resolution 2371 adopted by the Security Council in August last year, exports of North Korean minerals, including coal, are banned.

Following the VOA report, South Korea's government said Tuesday that it has already opened an investigation into private importers of the North's coal.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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