South Korea Seizes Ship that Illegally Transferred Oil to North Korea

This was pretty stupid that this ship would sail into a South Korean port after illegally delivering oil to North Korea:

This composite photo of oil transfer between China and North Korea is captured from the website of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. (Yonhap)

A Hong Kong-flagged vessel has been seized and inspected by South Korean authorities after secretly transferring oil to a North Korean vessel in international waters in a ship-to-ship transfer prohibited by the United Nations Security Council, government officials said Friday.

South Korean customs authorities took and searched the vessel, Lighthouse Winmore, when it entered the country’s Yeosu Port on Nov. 24 after transferring 600 tons of refined petroleum to a North Korean vessel on Oct. 19, the officials said.

UNSC Resolution 2375, adopted in September, bans member countries from ship-to-ship transfer of any goods for North Korea. Resolution 2397, adopted just a week earlier allows a country to capture and look into a vessel suspected of engaging in prohibited activities with North Korea.

The Hong Kong-flagged ship was chartered by Taiwanese company Billions Bunker Group and previously visited South Korea’s Yeosu Port on Oct. 11 to load up on Japanese refined petroleum and head to its claimed destination in Taiwan four days later, the authorities noted.

Instead of going to Taiwan, however, the vessel transferred the oil to a North Korean ship, the Sam Jong 2, and three other non-North Korean vessels in international waters in the East China Sea, they said.  [Yonhap]

You can read the rest at the link, but the ROK is expected to hold on to the ship for six months while the legal process plays out.  It seems to me the ROK ought to just auction the ship off.  How many companies would want to do illegal oil transfers with North Korea if they risk having their shipped sold off?

Satellite Photos Show Chinese Ships Trading Oil Illegally with North Korea

If the Chinese government wanted this illegal activity to be stopped they could easily stop it, but they are clearly turning a blind eye to this illegal activity.  The publication of these satellite photographs is clearly a signal to the Chinese that their bluff is being called after more stringent UN sanctions were passed last week against North Korea:

U.S. reconnaissance satellites have spotted Chinese ships selling oil to North Korean vessels on the West Sea around 30 times since October.

According to South Korean government sources, the satellites have pictured large Chinese and North Korean ships illegally trading in oil in a part of the West Sea closer to China than South Korea.

The satellite pictures even show the names of the ships. A government source said, “We need to focus on the fact that the illicit trade started after a UN Security Council resolution in September drastically capped North Korea’s imports of refined petroleum products.”

The U.S. Treasury Department placed six North Korean shipping and trading companies and 20 of their ships on sanctions list on Nov. 21, when it published spy satellite images taken on Oct. 19 showing a ship named Ryesonggang 1 connected to a Chinese vessel.   [Chosun Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

Picture of the Day: Taean Miracle

Miracle of 10 years in Taean

This composite file photo shows an aerial view of Mallipo Beach (top) in Taean, South Chungcheong Province, covered with crude oil from a supertanker after it collided with a maritime crane on Dec. 7, 2007, and, at bottom, the same view of the beach on Dec. 5, 2017. The collision took place in waters off Taean, leaking 12,547 kiloliters of oil that subsequently hit the country’s pristine west coast, devastating fish farms and beaches. The western coast and sea recovered with the sacrifices of more than 1.2 million volunteers a decade after the country’s worst-ever accident of its kind. (Yonhap)

Gang of Thieves Arrested After Digging Tunnel to Steal Oil from Pipeline

I did not realize that oil theft was such a common crime in South Korea that the police regularly monitor the pipelines:

This photo, released by the Iksan Police Station in South Korea`s southwestern province of North Jeolla on Aug. 23, 2017, shows a tunnel that a gang of oil pilferers dug in Okcheon, central South Korea. (Yonhap)

Police said Wednesday they have arrested two members of a six-man theft ring accused of having dug a 40-meter tunnel in South Korea’s central province of North Chungcheong for more than one month to pilfer oil from an underground pipeline.

The Iksan Police Station in southwestern South Korea also booked an accomplice and the owner of a gas station involved in the alleged distribution of stolen oil without physical detention.

The gang, including its leader surnamed Lee, met at a warehouse in the town of Okcheon in the province in March and began to dig the tunnel with shovels and hoes to access the supply pipeline of the state-run Daehan Oil Pipeline Corp.

After 45 days of digging, the thieves reached an underground oil pipeline and started to steal oil through a rubber hose they linked to the pipeline, according to the police. They loaded 10,000 to 20,000 liters of the stolen oil a day onto a truck remodeled into a tanker.

According to the police, the oil pilferers installed a CCTV near the tunnel to monitor for police crackdowns. In the last three months, they managed to steal 370,000 liters of oil worth 480 million won (about $423,300) from the pipeline.   [Korea Herald]

You can read the rest at the link.

Seoul Government Wants USFK to Pay for Soil Contamination Before Yongsan Garrison Relocation

Here is the latest update on the Yongsan Garrison oil contamination issue:

Land being used by the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan will be returned to Korea by the end of the year and turned into a public park. Many cases of oil contamination on the base have been exposed since the early 2000s./Yonhap

The Seoul Metropolitan Government is organizing a forum on oil contamination in the soil of U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Yongsan in central Seoul, Thursday, in an effort to pressure the U.S. to clean the site before its relocation is completed.

The city said the forum has enormous backing from citizens.

“We’re organizing this knowing there’s support coming from the public,” a city official said.

In May, the city conducted a survey of 3,040 Seoul residents, and 65 percent responded that the U.S. military should be held responsible for cleaning up any oil contamination and must do it before the land is returned ― the United States Forces Korea(USFK) headquarters and Eighth Army headquarters are currently relocating to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, which is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

The city’s move comes after a court ordered the Ministry of Environment to reveal the results of two inspections of the U.S. military base ― it conducted three inspections but only released the results of the first one to the public.

The forum is also intended to pressure the central government ― the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ― to put pressure on the USFK to share data on past contamination records and to clean the site. “To solve this problem, action from the central government is critical,” the official said.

One motivation for the city is money. So far, the local government has paid 7 billion won for cleanup operations outside the base’s perimeter. After the U.S. military moves out, the city will turn the area into a public park. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation estimates the onsite cleanup would cost 103 billion won. Environmental groups’ estimates are more than 1 trillion won.

Green Korea, an NGO advocating for a cleanup paid for by the U.S., welcomed Seoul’s move.

“It’s time for Seoul to act when the central government isn’t doing anything,” said Yoon Sangg-hoon, an activist from Green Korea.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but Green Korea has been pushing this issue since former President Park’s ouster.  Green Korea has long been an anti-US organization using the environment as justification for their activities.  In regards to the Yongsan oil leaks it has never been proven that the oil is coming from Yongsan Garrison.  Additionally of the 90+ leaks reported only 7 were major.  It seems Green Korea is inflating the leak number just like in the past the USFK crime rate in Korea was inflated by activist groups by including parking tickets.

Using environmental groups to attack USFK is something that has long been used by the Korean left. The most outrageous example has to be the ridiculous 2000 Yongsan Water Dumping Incident.  These environmental groups have primarily focused on stopping the relocation of US bases from the 2nd Infantry Division area and Seoul.  Of interest is that the 2006 Il Shim Hue spy scandal uncovered that North Korean operatives were infiltrating the ROK environmental movement to inspire more anti-US sentiment.

Reporter Discovers that China Continuing to Send Oil to North Korea Despite Sanctions

This just proves what I have always said, that action speak louder than words when it comes to Chinese government claims they are complying with sanctions on North Korea:

An oil storage and pipeline facility is located in the Chinese border town of Dandong, Liaoning Province, from which crude oil from China is sent into North Korea through a 30.3-kilometer (18.8-mile) pipeline across the border. [SHIN JIN-HO]

While the Chinese government claims in official trade figures that it no longer exports oil to North Korea, a JoongAng Ilbo reporter visited a pipeline facility located in the outskirts of the border city of Dandong and witnessed crude oil being loaded into the pipeline for transport across the border.

Located on the China-North Korea border along the Yalu River, this facility is where crude oil goes through a last inspection before being transported across the river.

When the reporter visited the pipeline facility, crude oil was being loaded into the pipeline from oil tankers. The crude oil, which comes from the Daqing Oil Field – the biggest oil field in China located in Heilongjiang Province – was transported there by train and would be piped to a storage facility in Baekma, North Pyongan Province, from which it will be distributed among state agencies, military bases and transport-related factories in the energy-hungry country.   [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but I have never believed that the Chinese government would fully comply with sanctions because even though the Kim regime is a foreign policy headache for them, a collapsed North Korean state would be even worse.


What Would Chinese Suspension of Oil Imports Do to North Korea?

I have always said that the Chinese have the power to bring the Kim regime into line if they wanted to.  The biggest card the Chinese could use against the Kim regime is to indefinitely suspend oil shipments.  They won’t do this though because they fear the collapse of the Kim regime more than they fear them developing nuclear weapons:

north korea nuke

If China were to pull the plug on its oil supply to North Korea as a countermeasure against Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test, what kind of impact would it have on the country? Most agree that a halt in oil would trigger a ‘mass oil panic’ across the Party, military, and state, crippling all agencies, given that the North currently imports more than 90 percent of its oil from its neighbor. In an event such as this, a still young leadership that lacks stability would not be able to hold up for a week, according to experts.

The oil that goes into the North either after for free or at a cost first goes to a storage facility in Baekma, North Pyongan Province (near Sinuiju) and is stored there until being supplied to state agencies, transport-related factories, and military bases, which have priority. The main route of supply is through the pipeline that runs from China’s Dandong to the North’s Baekma. The first area this stored oil is then sent to is Pyongyang by train and truck after which it is delivered to main Party agencies, transport, and shipping bodies.

Next in line is Nampo as well as ports and military bases near the west coast. The supply in Baekma is also transported to another storage facility in Munchon on the east coast, which provides for state enterprises, agencies, and military bases in that area. In short, oil from China powers nearly all of the North’s state entities, military facilities, and factories, explaining why cutting off that supply would grind the country to a halt.

A North Korean defector who once worked within the oil supply chain speculates the suspension would create conditions that are so bad Kim Jong Un would be desperate to restore the supply. Although the North has a three-month emergency supply, that is reserved for times of war and would therefore be untouchable.

The freeze would disrupt operations within the Central Party, related agencies, administrative bodies, and the military. Cadres of all affiliations would face no heat in their offices, making it hard to work in a normal capacity, and their movements would also be restricted as there would be no gasoline or diesel to run their cars. Workers would also not have a means to get around, likely shuttering state agencies and factories.  [Daily NK]

You can read more at the link.