December 31, 2017

CHINA: China Halts Oil Product Exports To North Korea In November As Sanctions Bite. Crew Of Chinese Ship Accused Of Transferring Oil To North Korean Vessel Questioned In South Korea.

Reuters News
written by Ryan Woo and Muyu Xu
Monday December 25, 2017

BEIJING - China exported no oil products to North Korea in November, Chinese customs data showed, apparently going above and beyond sanctions imposed earlier this year by the United Nations in a bid to limit petroleum shipments to the isolated country.

Tensions have flared anew over North Korea’s ongoing nuclear and missile programmes, pursued in defiance of years of U.N. resolutions. Last week, the U.N. Security Council imposed new caps on trade with North Korea, including limiting oil product shipments to just 500,000 barrels a year.

Beijing also imported no iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea in November, the second full month of the latest trade sanctions imposed by U.N.

China, the main source of North Korea’s fuel, did not export any gasoline, jet fuel, diesel or fuel oil to its isolated neighbour last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday.

November was the second straight month China exported no diesel or gasoline to North Korea. The last time China’s jet fuel shipments to Pyongyang were at zero was in February 2015.

“This is a natural outcome of the tightening of the various sanctions against North Korea,” said Cai Jian, an expert on North Korea at Fudan University in Shanghai.

The tightening “reflects China’s stance”, he said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she didn’t know any details about the oil products export situation.

“As a principle, China has consistently fully, correctly, conscientiously and strictly enforced relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea. We have already established a set of effective operating mechanisms and methods,” she said at a regular briefing on Tuesday, without elaborating.

Since June, state-run China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) [CNPET.UL] has suspended sales of gasoline and diesel to North Korea, concerned that it would not get paid for its goods, Reuters previously reported.

Beijing’s move to turn off the taps completely is rare.

In March 2003, China suspended oil supplies to North Korea for three days after Pyongyang fired a missile into waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

It is unknown if China still sells crude oil to Pyongyang. Beijing has not disclosed its crude exports to North Korea for several years.

Industry sources say China still supplies about 520,000 tonnes, or 3.8 million barrels, of crude a year to North Korea via an aging pipeline. That is a little more than 10,000 barrels a day, and worth about $200 million a year at current prices.

North Korea also sources some of its oil from Russia.

Chinese exports of corn to North Korean in November also slumped, down 82 percent from a year earlier to 100 tonnes, the lowest since January. Exports of rice plunged 64 percent to 672 tonnes, the lowest since March.

Trade between North Korea and China has slowed through the year, particularly after China banned coal purchases in February. In November, China’s trade with North Korea totalled $388 million, one of the lowest monthly volumes this year.

China has renewed its call on all countries to make constructive efforts to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula, urging the use of peaceful means to resolve issues.

But tensions flared again after North Korea on Nov. 29 said it had tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile that put the U.S. mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile Chinese exports of liquefied petroleum gas to North Korea, used for cooking, rose 58 percent in November from a year earlier to 99 tonnes. Exports of ethanol, which can be turned into a biofuel, gained 82 percent to 3,428 cubic metres.

To view a graphic on China's trade with North Korea click on this link
National Post, Canada
written by AP staff
Wednesday December 27, 2017

A transfer on Oct. 19, 2017, involving the North Korean oil tanker Rye Song Gang 1, was captured by surveillance satellite.

BEIJING — China’s foreign ministry has defended its enforcement of U.N. sanctions against North Korea following reports Chinese ships improperly transferred oil to North Korean vessels at sea.

A ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said Wednesday she had no information about the latest report. But she said China has “completely and strictly” enforced trade restrictions aimed at discouraging North Korea from developing nuclear and missile technology.

The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo cited unidentified officials this week as saying Chinese ships transferred oil to North Korean vessels some 30 times since October.

U.S. surveillance satellites detected the seaborne transfers on the West Sea in a location closer to China than South Korea. The satellites picked up the names of the ships.

Hua questioned whether any country could make sure “not a single breach will happen.” She said, “the Chinese government has been completely and strictly enforcing Security Council resolutions. We are taking a sincere and serious attitude and forceful and effective actions.”
South China Morning Post
written by AFP staff
Saturday December 30, 2017

Lighthouse Winmore’s 23 Chinese and two Myanmese crew have been detained since November, customs officials say.

The crew of a Hong Kong-registered ship have been detained for questioning in South Korea since the tanker was impounded in November for transferring oil to a North Korean vessel and breaching UN sanctions, customs officials said on Saturday.

The Lighthouse Winmore, which was chartered by a Taiwanese company, was impounded by South Korean customs authorities at the port of Yeosu on November 24 following an inspection.

“Since then, inspectors have been coming on board and questioning the crew”, a Korea Customs Service official said.

The tanker has 25 crew members – 23 Chinese citizens and two Myanmar nationals – another customs official at Yeosu said. He could not clarify whether the Chinese were from the mainland or Hong Kong.

The Lighthouse Winmore, chartered by Billions Bunker Group, visited Yeosu on October 11 and loaded up with about 14,000 tonnes of Japanese refined oil before heading towards its purported destination in Taiwan.

Instead of going to Taiwan, however, the vessel transferred 600 tonnes of oil to the North Korean vessel Sam Jong 2 in international waters off China before returning to Yeosu, the customs service officials said.

A foreign ministry official in Seoul said earlier that the ship had been seized briefly by customs authorities who inspected it.

The results of the investigation would be reported to the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee, foreign ministry officials said.

The Lighthouse Winmore is one of 10 ships the United States has asked the Security Council to blacklist for violating sanctions against North Korea.

Taipei said Billions Bunker Group is not incorporated in Taiwan but in the Marshall Islands, and that it would “continue to fully comply” with UN sanctions against North Korea.

Taiwan’s transport ministry said it is investigating whether any Taiwanese entities were involved.

The ship is owned by a Hong Kong-registered company called Win More Shipping Ltd. On Friday there was nobody at the address given for the firm on Hong Kong’s Companies Registry.

Four ships – three North Korean vessels and a Palau-flagged oil tanker – were blocked from international ports by the UN Security Council on Thursday over suspicions of carrying or transporting goods banned by sanctions targeting Pyongyang’s weapons ambitions, according to the final list adopted by the world body.

While the Sam Jong 2 was not among those four, it does appear, along with the Lighthouse Winmore, on a list of six other ships suspected of transporting illicit cargo.

The US has asked the Security Council to blacklist all 10 vessels, but China objected to the proposal, diplomats said, and agreed only to blacklist four ships on Thursday.

The Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on North Korea this year: one on August 5 targeting the iron, coal and fishing industries, another on September 11 aimed at textiles and limiting oil supply, and the most recent on December 22 focused on refined petroleum products.

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