Photo: Royal Navy

UK finds several ships in suspected breach of North Korean sanctions

The Royal Navy has captured evidence of ships of various nationalities breaching United Nations sanctions against North Korea which ban the supply of fuel or refined petroleum products to the country, UK’s government revealed.

The operations were undertaken by the Royal Navy’s frigate HMS Richmond which conducted the operations in the East China Sea. The ship collected updated intelligence on other ships of interest, providing video and photographic evidence to the UN Enforcement Coordination Cell (ECC).

“My team located multiple ships of various nationalities apparently acting in contravention of United Nations Security Council sanctions, and located, tracked and approached a number of ships that hadn’t previously been identified to the Enforcement Coordination Cell,” the commanding officer Hugh Botterill MBE said.

The operations, which were completed earlier this month, are the first occasion since 2019 that a Royal Navy ship has supported UN sanctions monitoring and enforcement activity.

North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2017. The UN Security Council has passed several resolutions sanctioning North Korea for developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. 

In September 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order on imposing additional sanctions against the country. The widened sanctions targeted the country’s shipping industry, trade, ports, and manufacturing, while a blockade was imposed on owning, controlling, or operating any port in North Korea, including any seaport, airport, or land port of entry.

“North Korea’s ambitions to acquire Weapons of Mass Destruction destabilises the region and poses a threat to the world. This vital activity, part of the Carrier Strike Group deployment to the region, has frustrated those ambitions,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace added.

HMS Richmond is currently under planned routine maintenance program in Japan before resuming operations and defence engage with the UK Carrier Strike Group.

Similar operation was conducted in 2019 when a North Korea-flagged tanker was caught violating UN sanctions as it engaged in what is believed to be a ship-to-ship transfer of fuel with an unidentified ship.

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In May 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice seized bulk carrier Wise Honest, belonging to North Korea, for allegedly violating United States and United Nations sanctions by illicitly shipping coal from North Korea.