The UK’s Ministry of Defence (‘MOD’) has given some insight into Royal Navy activities in support of UN sanctions against North Korea.
A communication from the MOD describes how the North Korean-flagged tanker SAEBYOL, ‘which was transmitting as a fishing boat’ was spotted by a Royal Navy vessel, HMS Montrose, ‘alongside a vessel of unknown nationality on the high seas, conducting a prohibited ship-to-ship transfer.’
It said that HMS Montrose, which is ‘working alongside’ the Japanese navy, is the fourth vessel to take part in enforcing sanctions against North Korea since the start of last year, after HMS Sutherland, HMS Albion and HMS Argyll deployed in 2018.
‘These three ships were a deterrent for those seeking to evade sanctions and continue illicit trading with North Korea, and in May HMS Sutherland observed and reported a Panama-flagged vessel conducting a prohibited ship-to-ship transfer with a North Korean-flagged vessel. This resulted in the Panamanian vessel being designated by the UN, deflagged and banned from port entry,’ the MOD said.
The UK’s Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘Our Royal Navy presence in East Asia over the last year has been a robust deterrent against those trying to evade international sanctions on North Korea. Sanctions evasion helps facilitate North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and is a major source of funding,’ and added, ‘Sanctions will remain in place. The Royal Navy will keep enforcing them until we see concrete steps towards North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.’