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Japan tells UN about sanctions breach by N. Korea!

TOKYO: Japan said today it had reported to the UN a suspected sanctions breach by N. Korea involving a ship-to-ship transfer, days after Tokyo said another suspected breach had been flagged.

The incident is the sixth time this year Tokyo has reported a cargo transfer involving a North Korean vessel, in violation of sanctions over Pyongyang’s banned nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, a foreign ministry official said.

A Japanese military escort ship spotted the North Korean tanker alongside a vessel named MYONG RYU 1 of unknown nationality in the East China Sea on May 24, the ministry said in a statement.

“The (Japanese) government strongly suspects they were transferring goods, which is banned under UN Security Council resolutions,” it said.

The ministry identified the North Korean tanker as the SAM JONG 2, one of the vessels denied international port access by the UN Security Council. 

On Tuesday, Tokyo said it had reported a similar case involving a North Korean-flagged tanker and a small vessel, which appeared to be flying what “seemed like” a Chinese flag.

Pyongyang is subject to a series of UN sanctions, including one prohibiting all member states from facilitating or engaging in ship-to-ship transfers of goods to or from North Korean-flagged vessels.

Tokyo’s claims come amid a flurry of diplomatic activity ahead of an expected summit between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump next month.

Relevant pieces published earlier:

i) North and South Korea held high-level talks Friday to discuss their ongoing efforts to improve ties ahead of a landmark meeting between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. The North-South discussions were originally scheduled for earlier this month but were abruptly called off by Pyongyang in response to a joint US-South Korea air force drill. But a day after “Max Thunder” ended May 25, the North’s leader Kim had a surprise summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the border truce village of Panmunjom – their second, following a historic first meeting in April.

The two Koreas agreed to hold more meetings throughout this month to carry out the agreements reached between their leaders at the April summit, according to a joint statement released following Friday’s talks. A round of general-level military talks will be held on June 14 to discuss ways to ease tensions and a Red Cross meeting to plan a reunion for war-separated families is scheduled for June 22. Officials from the two sides will also meet on June 18 to discuss the prospects of fielding a joint team for the Jakarta Asian Games in August. The two Koreas formed the first-ever unified Korean Olympic team, a joint women’s ice hockey squad, during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. (!st of June 2018)

ii) US President Donald Trump, a day after his cancellation of a high-stakes summit with North Korea, said Friday that the meeting with Kim Jong Un could still go ahead. “We’re going to see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House, after welcoming Pyongyang’s latest statement on the talks as “very good news. “It could even be the 12th,” he said in a reference to the original June 12 date set for the meeting in Singapore. “We’re talking to them now,” Trump said of the North Koreans. “They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it. We’ll see what happens.”

North Korea, responding to Trump’s abrupt cancellation of the meeting over “hostility” from Pyongyang, said Friday that it is willing to talk to the United States “at any time.” Trump welcomed the statement as “warm and productive.” “We will soon see where it will lead, hopefully too long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time (and talent) will tell!” the US president said in a tweet. In a letter to Kim, Trump said Thursday he would not go ahead with the summit in Singapore, following what the White House called a “trail of broken promises” by the North. (25th of May, 2018) 

iii) In a correspondence addressed to North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un President Donald Trump has made it clear that due to North Korean anger and hostility the Singapore summit had been canceled. Trump and Kim had been due to hold high-stakes talks on June 12 aimed at ridding the reclusive state of nuclear weapons, but the meeting was recently thrown into doubt as both sides raised the prospect of scrapping the discussions and traded threats.

Trump’s letter came a day after North Korea attacked US Vice President Mike Pence as “ignorant and stupid.” “Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote in a letter to Kim released by the White House. “Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”

Trump also brandished the threat of America’s nuclear might in his letter, writing: “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”

The US leader’s letter appeared to leave the door open to a future meeting with Kim, however, stressing that he had been “very much looking forward to being there.” “We greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations and discussions” relative to the summit, he told Kim.

It is pertinent to mention here that today North Korea has proclaimed that it had fully demolished its nuclear test site with a series of planned detonations. According to an official declaration: “The Nuclear Weapons Institute of the DPRK held a ceremony for completely dismantling the northern nuclear test ground on May 24… to ensure transparency of the discontinuance of nuclear test…

“Dismantling the nuclear test ground was done in such a way as to make all the tunnels of the test ground collapse by the explosion and completely close the tunnel entrances, and at the same time, explode some guard facilities and observation posts on the site”. It has been confirmed that no leakage of radiation had been detected at the site during explosions.  

iv)  US President Donald Trump asks North Korea to abandon its nuclear program on Tuesday, ahead of an expected summit with the North’s leader Kim Jong Un. Earlier, the US leader – who had spent the day in talks with French President Emmanuel Macron – had described Kim as “very open” and “very honorable” – his most positive comments yet about a man he once publicly belittled. But when pressed about what he hoped to gain from Pyongyang, the 71-year-old Republican president was blunt.

“Meetings are being set up, and I want to see denuclearization of North Korea,” Trump told reporters. Asked to explain what he means by denuclearization, Trump replied: “It means they get rid of their nukes – very simple.” “It would be very easy for me to make a simple deal and claim victory. I don’t want to do that. I want them to get rid of their nukes.”

While Trump has repeatedly referred to North Korea’s denuclearization, Pyongyang however consistently defines the term as “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” – code for the removal of America’s military presence in the South, a condition Washington is unlikely to accept. Amid preparations for a landmark bilateral US-North Korea summit, which could come in June, Trump had kind words for Kim, whom he once called a “madman” and “little rocket man.”

M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.