All Saturday papers took up a disclosure by the South Korean government that its naval authorities seized a Hong Kong-flagged tanker on Nov. 24 for exporting refined oil products to North Korea by transferring them to a DPRK vessel in international waters in the East China Sea on Oct. 19 in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The ship was chartered by a Taiwanese company that had notified the South Korean authorities ahead of the ship’s departure from a South Korean port that its destination was Taiwan. The papers said North Korea has been desperate to smuggle on the high seas petroleum into the country, adding that the U.S., Japan, and South Korea are stepping up their surveillance in order to close loopholes in the UN economic sanctions against the Kim regime.
Yomiuri reported that Defense Secretary Mattis said on Friday: “Obviously if a government finds that there is a ship in their port conducting trade that was forbidden under the U.N. Security Council resolution, then they have an obligation and so far we have seen nations take that obligation seriously.”
Sunday papers highlighted a Reuters’ report alleging that several Russian tankers have engaged in similar smuggling operations involving the transport of oil to DPRK vessels in international waters near the Russian Far East. Monday’s Yomiuri said a clandestine network of Chinese, Russian, and North Korean companies was formed in June 2017 for conducting illicit oil shipments to North Korea, with Chinese firms working as intermediaries between their Russian and DPRK partners to arrange tanker shipments and payment.