Report: Russia Illegally Shipped North Korean Coal to South Korea

North Korea coal exports have been targeted in international sanctions, but Pyongyang could be preparing to resume exports, satellite images show. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Stephen Shaver/UPI

Russia illegally sent North Korean coal to South Korea on two occasions in violation of United Nations sanctions, a report obtained by Voice of America Tuesday alleged.

According to a report submitted by the U.N.’s sanction committee, shipments from the Russian port of Kholmsk that arrived in the South Korean ports of Incheon and Pohang in October of last year originated from North Korea, with the Pohang delivery alone worth around $325,000.

Such trading falls afoul of Security Council resolution 2371, adopted last August that bans the export of North Korean minerals such as coal, a move designed to cripple the country’s economy in response to its illegal nuclear weapons program.

The investigation also found over 30 cases of exports of coal from North Korea to Southeast Asian countries using false paper documents claiming its origins were China and Russia.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s foreign ministry confirmed they would look into the cases.

“Our government is making diplomatic efforts necessary to implement the U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea in close coordination with the international community,” said ministry spokesperson Noh Kyu-duk at a press briefing on Tuesday.

The shipments are the latest example of North Korea bypassing international sanctions on export markets. In January, U.S. officials presented satellite photographs showing Chinese cargo ships loading North Korean coal in violation of U.N. sanctions.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the six Chinese vessels tracked by American satellites tried to avoid detection by turning off their automatic identification systems as they approached North Korea to pick up their illicit loads of coal. This occurred despite Beijing announcing their own ban on North Korean products such as coal, iron, iron ore, and seafood in response to the regime’s continued nuclear testing. China represents around 90 percent of the North’s trading activity.

That same month, Western European intelligence agencies told Reuters that the North had repeatedly shipped coal to Russian ports in violation of sanctions.

“The secretive Communist state has at least three times since shipped coal to the Russian ports of Nakhodka and Kholmsk, where it was unloaded at docks and reloaded onto ships that took it to South Korea or Japan,” the agency reported at the time.

North Korea’s coal reserves remains a fundamental part of the country’s economy, with some estimates suggesting it has around 100 billion metric tonnes in coal and limestone equivalent to $9.7 trillion.

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