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US accuses North Korea of breaching UN fuel cap

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The United States is accusing North Korea of breaching a UN-imposed ceiling on fuel imports by carrying out dozens of ship-to-ship transfers this year, according to a report obtained by AFP on Wednesday.

In the document, the United States asked a UN sanctions committee to rule that the annual cap of 500,000 barrels had been exceeded and demand that countries immediately halt fuel deliveries to North Korea.

“The United States and its partners remain gravely concerned about the degree of UN Security Council resolution violations that are occurring in relation to North Korea’s import of refined petroleum products,” said the report sent to the committee on Tuesday.

On that same day, President Donald Trump said he had received another “beautiful letter” from Kim Jong Un and indicated he was willing to hold a third summit with the North Korean leader.

A summit in Vietnam in February collapsed over North Korea’s demands for a lifting of sanctions as a condition to enter into talks on scrapping its nuclear program.

The cap on fuel imports is among a series of tough sanctions adopted by the Security Council in response to North Korea’s ballistic missile tests.

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The United States insists that “maximum pressure” from the sanctions must remain on North Korea until it agrees to dismantle its weapons program.

– Illicit fuel from ship tranfers –

The United States and Japan have documented at least eight illegal ship-to-ship transfers of fuel involving North Korea-flagged tankers, the report said.

An additional 70 instances of fuel deliveries on the high seas were detected by the United States between January and April, although the volume of fuel unloaded from the ships was not known.

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Even if the tankers were only on-third laden, North Korea would still be in breach of the import quota for this year, said the report.

The 11-page report was presented by the United States and backed by 23 countries including Australia, France, Germany and Japan.

It also included images of North Korean tankers moored alongside ships for the transfer of fuel, which were then taken to North Korea’s port of Nampo.

The countries are seeking the sanctions committee’s “immediate determination that the cap has been breached, and to subsequently notify UN member states of the breach and confirm that all subsequent transfers of refined petroleum to the DPRK must immediately halt.”

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The United States last year accused North Korea of exceeding the quota on fuel imports through illegal ship transfers, but Russia and China raised questions about the data.

A report by a panel of experts in March found that North Korea was resorting to a “massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal” to circumvent sanctions.

One of North Korea’s key weapons in battling sanctions is its fleet of vessels, which have been renamed, placed under foreign flags and disguised to avoid detection of illegal cargo.

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