Japan, Britain to jointly monitor North Korea on illegal ship-to-ship transfers

North Korean-flagged tanker JI SONG 6 is pictured in the East China Sea in this photo taken on May 19, 2018, by Japan's Ministry of Defense.
North Korean-flagged tanker JI SONG 6 is pictured in the East China Sea in this photo taken on May 19, 2018, by Japan's Ministry of Defense. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Japan and Britain are making arrangements to hold joint surveillance activities between November and December to look out for illegal ship-to-ship transfers by North Korea on the high seas.

The surveillance will be conducted following the arrival of Britain's Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll in Japan. It will be the third vessel to be deployed from Britain this year following the deployment of frigate HMS Sutherland and the landing platform dock ship HMS Albion, in an effort to continue bilateral cooperation to put pressure on North Korea.

The Argyll will conduct surveillance activities using United States military bases in Japan, in line with the Agreement Regarding the Status of the United Nations Forces in Japan, which was signed in the aftermath of the Korean War. It will also conduct joint exercises with the Maritime Self-Defence Force.

With Brexit approaching, Britain has become increasingly involved in the Asia-Pacific region. The country will likely continue dispatching naval vessels to Asia and participating in surveillance activities of ship-to-ship transfers.

In July, the United States submitted a complaint to the United Nations accusing North Korea of violating a UN Security Council resolution by making at least 89 illicit ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products from January to May this year.

The Self-Defence Force has kept an eye on North Korean ships by dispatching naval escorts and patrol aircraft near the Korean peninsula. However, North Korea's smuggling has continued, through such ploys as changing the names of tankers.

"Only the tip of the iceberg has been discovered," a senior official from the Self-Defence Force said.

 

In addition to Japan, the United States and Britain, the Australian and Canadian militaries sent patrol planes around this Spring to conduct surveillance activities of North Korean ship-to-ship transfers.

The Japanese government is calling on the international community to continue applying pressure on North Korea until it takes steps towards denuclearisation. It plans to ask foreign militaries to take part in the monitoring activities when they visit Japan.