The government confirmed that a small unidentified ship made contact with a North Korean tanker in international waters in the East China Sea on Feb. 16. On Feb. 20 the government made public the suspected ship-to-ship smuggling operation in violation of the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. This was the third case of smuggling involving the DPRK made public by the government after similar announcements made on Jan. 20 and Feb. 13.
According to the Foreign Ministry and other sources, Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) reconnaissance aircraft spotted the small vessel marked “Min Ningde You-078” in simplified Chinese characters coming alongside the North Korean tanker “Yu Jong-2,” connecting the two vessels with a hose.
“Min Ningde You” means “Fujian Province,” “Ningde City,” and “oil tanker.” The government reckons that a Chinese company was involved and has verified with the Chinese government and served notice of its “interest” in this matter. It also reported to the UNSC committee on sanctions against North Korea.
The government has stepped up monitoring of smuggling operations at sea involving North Korea after the UNSC resolution last December. According to a senior Foreign Ministry official, there have been cases in which MSDF aircrafts’ approaching suspicious ships prevented transactions from taking place.