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03 January 2018, 01:27 | Myrtle Vega
(2nd LD) S. Korea seizes HK vessel over ship-to-ship oil transfer to N. Korea
In response, the ruling Chinese Communist Party's official organ published a commentary questioning the USA and South Korea's interpretation of the satellite imagery allegedly showing Chinese ships transferring oil to North Korean boats in the Yellow Sea.
A US State Department official confirmed Thursday that the administration has evidence that Chinese-owned ships have "engaged in UN-prohibited activities, including ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum and the transport of coal from North Korea".
United States officials have not confirmed details of this report.
She said she was not aware if the vessel had docked at the port in other countries but the relevant media reports "did not accord with facts". "We never allow Chinese companies and citizens to violate the resolutions", Hua said.
Of those ships, three were listed earlier this month as Hong Kong-owned and two as mainland-China-owned, sailing under flags of convenience.
The seizure and inspection took place in November, but it was reported only after South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper published U.S. reconnaissance photos on Tuesday that were part of a U.S. Treasury Department announcement of sanctions on 20 North Korean vessels and six shipping and trading companies.
China's critics say it has agreed to tough-sounding.
"There is no evidence that this is backed by the Russian state but these Russian vessels are giving a lifeline to the North Koreans", the second source said.
The Lighthouse Winmore, which the US recently called to be on a United Nations blacklist of ships involved with North Korea, was seized and inspected at the Yeosu port in late November, according to news agency Yonhap.
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China's foreign ministry spokeswoman said she did not have any information about the matter.
Employees at the office of Lighthouse Ship Management declined to comment and said they had no knowledge of the situation.
On Friday, South Korean authorities said they seized a Hong Kong-flagged vessel suspected of transferring oil to a North Korean vessel at sea on October 19.
More likely, the governments of China and Russian Federation are turning a blind eye to the transactions.
Ship tracking data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows that the Lighthouse Winmore has mainly been doing supply runs between China and Taiwan since August.
The Trump administration has led a drive to step up global sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang's efforts to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States.
Trump has sought to rein in North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs this year by crippling its economy, starving its weapons program, and hopefully forcing it to the negotiating table. A number of countries, including Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Iran, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and the United Arab Emirates participated in banned financial transactions and other business activities with North Korea.
According to the European security sources, the Vityaz conducted a ship-to-ship transfer with the North Korean Flagged Sam Ma 2 tanker in open seas during October.
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox. North Korea relies on China for almost all of its energy supplies, and China accounts for more than 90 percent of North Korea's total trade volume.
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