Seoul holds second ship over 'oil transfers' to North Korea

GETTY    
     KIM'S BUDDY? Vladimir Putin could be helping North Korea

GETTY KIM'S BUDDY? Vladimir Putin could be helping North Korea

The Panamanian-flagged vessel, known as KOTI, is now under investigation by South Korea.

Russian tankers have supplied fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months by transferring cargoes at sea, breaching United Nations sanctions, sources told Reuters.

The ship, which can carry 5,100 metric tons of oil, is now docked in Pyeongtaek-Dangjin port on South Korea's west coast after security officials reportedly decided on December 21 not to allow the vessel to leave the port, according to Yonhap citing a local maritime office.

South Korean authorities seized a Hong Kong tanker after it was found to have secretly transferred 600 tons of refined petroleum to a North Korean vessel in global waters in October, in a brazen breach of United Nations sanctions.

South Korea announced the first ship seizure Friday.

The Hong Kong-registered Lighthouse Winmore, which was chartered by a Taiwanese company, was seized at the South's port of Yeosu in November for allegedly transferring refined petroleum products to the North's Sam Jong 2. The Lighthouse Winmore was seized upon re-entering Yeosu on November 24, foreign ministry officials told CNN.

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They said: "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 government has been in close consultations with related countries and ministries to thoroughly implement the sanctions by the U.N. Security Council", the spokesman said.

On Thursday, Chinese officials were forced to deny reports that Chinese ships had carried out similar trans-shipments of fuel at sea to North Korean vessels after the USA released images from satellites showing the Rye Song Gang 1 connected to a Chinese tanker by hoses. "We are liaising with the Korean parties concerned to obtain further information about the incident, and will take appropriate actions as necessary", the statement said.

Acting on intelligence provided by the United States - including surveillance photos of an exchange taken by satellite - South Korean customs officials boarded the vessel, the Lighthouse Winmore, when it entered Yeosu Port on November 24, Yonhap news reported.

The Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on North Korea this year: One on Aug 5 targeting the iron, coal and fishing industries, another set on Sep 11 aimed at textiles and limiting oil supply, and the most recent on Dec 22 focused on refined petroleum products. The KOTI does not seem to be included on the list. It is Panamanian flagged.

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