The G7, the European Union and three other countries plan to seek help from China to stop North Korea from using China’s territorial waters to evade UN sanctions, according to a letter obtained by Reuters on Friday.
In a letter to Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun, China said it was “concerned by the continued existence of several oil tankers using Sansha Bay’s territorial waters as a refuge to facilitate trade in sanctioned petroleum products to North Korea.”
The letter, signed by the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom, as well as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and the G7 members of the European Union, will provide satellite images that “clearly demonstrate that these practices continued within China’s jurisdiction in 2022 and will continue in 2023.”
North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), has been under United Nations sanctions since 2006 for its missiles and nuclear program. This includes annual import restrictions on refined petroleum and crude oil imposed in 2017.
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UN sanctions watchdogs have also accused North Korea of evading sanctions for years, including by continuing to illegally import refined oil and export coal.
The Security Council has also blacklisted several vessels for sanctions waivers. Satellite imagery provided to China shows some of these ships using its territorial waters.
“We reiterate our encouragement to the Chinese government to make further efforts to identify these vessels and prevent them from mooring or loitering within China’s territorial waters,” the letter said.
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It also calls for “if these vessels are found anchored in Sansha Bay again, China will inspect the vessels for evidence of illegal oil smuggling, deny all operations, and ultimately expel them from your territorial waters as soon as possible.”
The letter asks China to tell companies in the region that if they service these vessels, they “not only expose themselves to sanctions risk, but also risk being publicly identified as contributing to sanctions evasion.”
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China has repeatedly said it is complying with UN Security Council sanctions resolutions. It is not yet clear when the letter to Mr. Zhang will be sent.
“All parties should fully implement, and not selectively ignore, the Security Council resolutions related to North Korea, especially the provisions on resuming dialogue and political settlement,” Mr. Zhang said at a meeting on North Korea’s recent missile launches last week.
In recent years, the council has been divided over how to deal with North Korea. Russia and China, which have veto powers along with the United States, Britain and France, say additional sanctions are useless and want such measures to be eased.
North Korea has tested dozens of ballistic missiles over the past 18 months, and the United States has long warned it is ready to conduct a seventh nuclear test.
North Korea claims it is exercising its right to self-defense by testing ballistic missiles to protect its sovereignty and security interests from military threats.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Richard Chan)