China’s government promised on Friday to “deal seriously” with people or companies that may have violated United Nations sanctions by illicitly delivering oil to North Korea.
On Wednesday, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported that Chinese shipping companies were dodging the UN sanctions on oil sales to North Korea by registering ships in third countries. According to the newspaper, which quotes Asia-Pacific shipping records, at least several vessels are owned by Chinese companies, but are registered in third countries like Panama, Togo, the Marshall Islands, and Sierra Leone.
The same news outlet reported last week that U.S. recon satellites had photographed around 30 illegal transactions involving Chinese vessels selling oil to North Korea on the West Sea in October.
Last Friday, South Korean officials said that they had impounded a Hong Kong-registered oil tanker suspected of having secretly transferred refined oil to a North Korean vessel in violation of UN sanctions.
The South Korean announcement came just a day after U.S. President Donald Trump had tweeted that he was “very disappointed” that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea.
On Sunday, a South Korean customs official told Reuters that authorities had seized another ship, a Panama-flagged vessel, suspected of having transferred oil products to North Korea in violation of the sanctions.
“If it is confirmed through investigation there are violations of Security Council resolutions, China will deal seriously with them in accordance with laws and regulations,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said today, as quoted by the AP.
Also today, the Chinese commerce ministry said that it would reduce exports of crude oil, refined oil products, steel, and other metals to North Korea, effective January 6, in line with the stricter sanctions that the United Nations Security Council passed in a resolution at the end of December.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com