Asia Pacific

U.N. panel to accuse South Korea of violating sanctions with petroleum shipments to North, sources say

Kyodo, Reuters

A report by a U.N. panel will accuse South Korea of failing to notify the Security Council of its shipments of petroleum products to North Korea in breach of international sanctions, diplomatic sources say.

It will be the first time for the sanctions committee on North Korea under the 15-member council to say that Seoul has violated U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang. South Korea has been stepping up efforts to improve relations with North Korea since last year.

The panel is also expected to say North Korea illegally sold fishing rights to other countries in contravention of Security Council resolutions.

The panel’s annual report is expected to show that vessels carrying North Korean fishing licenses were operating in waters between the Korean Peninsula and neighboring countries. The claim is based on information provided by two unnamed member states — one identified as Japan, according to officials in Tokyo.

It is anticipated that information obtained from fishermen will reveal that around 200 Chinese fishing vessels were operating in North Korean waters, and that the price of a single fishing license cost about 50,000 yuan ($7,250) per month.

South Korea allegedly did not notify the Security Council of its deliveries of petroleum products for use at a joint liaison office set up in September in Kaesong, just inside the North Korean side of the border.

South Korea brought about 340 tons of such products to North Korea between January and November last year, which appear to have chiefly been used for powering and heating purposes at the office.

During the period, Seoul did not report on the shipments as required under U.N. sanctions aimed at suffocating funding for North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It brought back about 4 tons of unused products.

South Korea has normally filed requests to get council permission to deliver banned items to the North. The sources said Seoul did not do so about the shipments of petroleum products to Kaesong in view of the perceived difficulty of gaining consent, including from the United States in prior consultations.

In December 2017, the Security Council capped refined petroleum product exports to North Korea at 500,000 barrels annually, down from 2 million barrels a year, following Pyongyang’s test-firing the previous month of a new type of long-range missile.

The measure requires all U.N. member nations to provide a report to the sanctions committee every 90 days on the amount of crude oil shipped to North Korea. Russia and China, which maintain close ties with Pyongyang, have since adhered to the rule.

North and South Korea opened the joint liaison office in line with an agreement at an inter-Korean summit in April. It is designed to keep the two Koreas in constant contact while becoming a regular channel to improve relations.

The office is located in a facility in the Kaesong industrial park used for a joint economic cooperation project between the two Koreas. The industrial park was shuttered in February 2016 amid worsening ties between the nations.

The office is also used as a venue for inter-Korean consultations. Electricity to power the facility has been supplied by the South.

The sanctions committee comprising eight experts in such areas as nuclear nonproliferation and export trade control is scheduled to compile a new report detailing Pyongyang’s sanctions violations by Friday and make it public later.

A summit last June between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump produced a vague commitment by Kim to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but he has yet to take what Washington sees as concrete steps in that direction.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday he was dispatching a team to make preparations for the next summit between the two, to be held somewhere in Asia late in February.

In an interview with Fox News Channel, Pompeo said the North Koreans had agreed the second summit between the two leaders would be held at the end of February. “We’ll do it someplace in Asia,” he said. “I am dispatching a team there. They’re headed that way now to lay the foundations for what I hope will be a substantial additional step towards the path for not only denuclearization of the peninsula but a brighter future for the North Korean people.”

Pompeo did not name the summit venue. Vietnam said last week it had not been informed about any time or venue for a possible Trump-Kim summit, but that it was confident in its ability to host such a meeting.

Officials and diplomats said two weeks ago that Vietnam was keen to host the summit and two sources said Hanoi was preparing to receive Kim on a state visit.

Singapore, where Trump and Kim met in June, and Bangkok have also been talked about as possibilities for the planned summit.

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