South Korea is holding a second ship on suspicion of supplying oil to North Korea in violation of worldwide sanctions meant to punish Kim Jong-un's regime for its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.
South Korean authorities have seized a Hong Kong-flagged vessel believed to have secretly transferred oil to a North Korean vessel in worldwide waters in a ship-to-ship transfer prohibited by the U.N. Security Council, local media reported Friday.
The crews of both the impounded vessels are mostly Chinese, raising suspicions that China - North Korea's largest trading partner - may be supplying the fuel, or failing to do enough to prevent its sale.
The KOTI was seized at Pyeongtaek-Dangjin port, the official said without elaborating, due to the sensitivity of the issue.
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Acting on intelligence provided by the USA - 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 Lighthouse Winmore is one of 10 ships the U.S. has asked the Security Council to blacklist for violating sanctions against North Korea.
South Korea has seized a second ship as part of what it describes as an ongoing effort to monitor North Korea's attempts to evade United Nations sanctions. The Lighthouse Winmore was seized upon re-entering Yeosu on November 24, foreign ministry officials told CNN.
The Panamanian tanker was banned from leaving port following a government meeting on December 21, the report said.
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"The vessels are smuggling Russian fuel from Russian Far Eastern ports to North Korea".
Four ships - three North Korean vessels and a Palau-flagged oil tanker - were blocked from global ports by the UN Security Council on Thursday on suspicion of carrying or transporting goods banned by the sanctions.
Even though the Sam Jong 2 was not among the four banned vessels, it appears on a list of six other ships suspected of transporting illicit cargo, along with the Lighthouse Winmore.
The KOTI's ties to China also seem clear, the tanker is run by companies operating out of Hong Kong and Dalian, two well-known hubs for North Korean sanctions evasion.
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Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.