Exclusive: G7, others ask China to stop North Korea sanctions evasion in its waters

UNITED NATIONS, July 21 (Reuters) – The Group of Seven, European Union and three other countries plan to appeal to China for help to stop North Korea evading United Nations sanctions by using Chinese territorial waters, according to their letter seen by Reuters on Friday.

“We have concerns regarding the continuing presence of multiple oil tankers … that use your territorial waters in Sansha Bay as refuge to facilitate their trade of sanctioned petroleum products to the DPRK,” said the letter to be sent to China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun.

The letter – signed by G7 members the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Britain, plus Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and the European Union – will provide satellite images that “clearly indicates these practices continued to occur within China’s jurisdiction in 2022 and have continued in 2023.”

North Korea, formally named Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), has been under U.N. sanctions for its missiles and nuclear programs since 2006. This includes an annual cap of its imports of refined petroleum and crude oil, imposed in 2017.

U.N. sanctions monitors have also long accused North Korea of evading the measures, including by continuing illicit imports of refined petroleum and exports of coal.

The Security Council has also blacklisted several ships for sanctions busting. The satellite images to be provided to China show some of those ships using its territorial waters.

“We encourage the Chinese government again to do more to identify and prevent these vessels from anchoring or loitering in Chinese territorial waters,” the letter said.

UN SECURITY COUNCIL SPLIT

It also asks “that China inspects the vessels for evidence of illicit oil smuggling, deny them all services, and ultimately expel them from your waters as quickly as possible, if these vessels are discovered to again be anchored in Sansha Bay.”

The letter requests that China tell companies in the area that if they provide services to these vessels they are “not only exposing themselves to sanctions risk but also risk being publicly identified as contributing to sanctions evasion.”

China has repeatedly said it abides by U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions. It was not immediately clear when the letter to Zhang was due to be sent.

“All parties should fully implement the DPRK-related Security Council resolutions, especially the provisions relating to the resumption of dialogue and political settlement, which should not be selectively ignored,” Zhang told a council last week at a meeting on North Korea’s latest missile launch.

For the past several years the council has been divided over how to deal with Pyongyang. Russia and China, veto powers along with the United States, Britain and France, have said more sanctions will not help and want such measures to be eased.

North Korea has tested dozens of ballistic missile in the past 18 months and the United States has long been warning that Pyongyang is ready to carry out a seventh nuclear test.

Pyongyang says it is exercising its right to self-defense with its ballistic missile tests to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests from military threats.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Richard Chang

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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