Japan-North Korea Relations

Suspicion of illegal ship-to-ship transfers of goods by YU SON, North Korean-flagged tanker, and a small vessel of unknown nationality

(March 20, 2019)

April 25, 2019
Japanese

1. Overview

In the morning of March 20, 2019, a JS ‘Oyodo’ (Escort Division15: Ominato) of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force found that YU SON (IMO number:8691702), North Korean-flagged tanker, was lying alongside a vessel of unknown nationality on which 「秦皇島」* is indicated on the high seas (around 410km southern offshore of Shanghai) in the East China Sea.

At midnight of the same day, a AOE 'TOKIWA' (Replenishment at Sea Squadron 1: Yokosuka) of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force found that YU SON, North Korean-flagged tanker, was lying alongside a vessel of unknown nationality that might be different from a small vessel found in the morning, on the high seas (around 410km southern offshore of Shanghai) in the East China Sea.

Judging from the fact that these vessels lay alongside each other and connected hoses, these vessels could have been engaged in some type of activity. Following a comprehensive assessment, the Government of Japan strongly suspects that they conducted ship-to-ship transfers banned by United Nations Security Council Resolution.

In March 2018, the Security Council Committee established pursuant to Resolution 1718 designated YU SON as a vessel subject to assets freeze and prohibited from port entry.

「秦皇島」means “ Qinhuangdao City” which is located in Heibei Province.

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    YU SON and a small vessel of unknown nationality lying alongside each other and connecting hoses
    (March 20, 11:05 (JST)) (Source: Ministry of Defense)
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    YU SON and a small vessel of unknown nationality lying alongside each other and connecting hoses
    (March 20, 11:20 (JST)) (Source: Ministry of Defense)
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    YU SON
    (March 20, 12:00 (JST)) (Source: Ministry of Defense)
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    A small vessel of unknown nationality
    (March 20, 07:30 (JST)) (Source: Ministry of Defense)
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    YU SON and a small vessel of unknown nationality lying alongside each other and connecting hoses
    (March 21, 02:10 (JST)) (Source: Ministry of Defense)
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    YU SON and a small vessel of unknown nationality lying alongside each other and connecting hoses
    (March 21, 02:10 (JST)) (Source: Ministry of Defense)

2. Japan’s Response

Japan notified the Security Council Committee (Panel of Experts) of this incident and shared information with related countries. Japan also expressed its interest to China which could have relation to the small vessel of unknown nationality.