SEOUL – South Korea has seized a ship that had allegedly transferred oil to a North Korean vessel in the South China Sea, violating United Nations sanctions imposed on North Korea, South Korean officials revealed on Friday.
South Korean customs authorities requisitioned and registered the vessel Lighthouse Winmore, which was traveling with a Hong Kong flag, on Nov. 24, 2017, when it docked at the port of Yeosu in the South after transferring some 600 tons of refined oil to a North Korean vessel on Oct. 19, reported news agency Yonhap.
The ship was chartered by Taiwanese company Billions Bunker Group and had visited Yeosu on Oct. 11 to load Japanese refined oil and supposedly head to Taiwan four days later.
However, instead of going to Taiwan, Lighthouse Winmore transferred the oil to a North Korean ship, Sam Jong 2, and three other vessels belonging to other countries on international waters, officials said.
South Korea will confiscate the vessel for six months, during which it is expected to seek its release.
Officials said South Korea had shared intelligence with the United States in detecting the illegal transaction.
South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported on Tuesday that the US satellites over the Yellow Sea had spotted Chinese vessels selling oil to North Korean vessels 20 times since October.
The UN toughened its sanctions against Pyongyang last week, further limiting access to oil supply, banning exports in various sectors and forcing citizens who work abroad to return to the country.
China, the North’s main trading partner, denied on Friday having carried out any illegal sale of oil to the country that violates the UN sanctions, and said that it has been investigating the alleged illegal sales.