World

China denies illicitly selling oil to N. Korea

Beijing defends itself after reports suggesting it flouted UN sanctions

BEIJING/WASHINGTON: China yesterday denied reports it has been illicitly selling oil products to North Korea, after US President Donald Trump said he was not happy that China had allowed oil to reach the isolated nation.

Mr Trump said on Twitter the previous day that China had been "caught" allowing oil into North Korea and that would prevent "a friendly solution" to the crisis over North Korea's nuclear programme.

"I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war," he said in a separate interview with The New York Times.

Seoul's Chosun Ilbo newspaper this week quoted South Korean government sources as saying that US spy satellites had detected Chinese ships transferring oil to North Korean vessels about 30 times since October. US officials have not confirmed details of this report.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying told reporters she had noted recent reports including suggestions a Chinese vessel was suspected of transporting oil to a North Korean vessel on Oct 19.

"The Chinese side has conducted immediate investigation. In reality, the ship in question has, since August, not docked at a Chinese port and there is no record of it entering or leaving a Chinese port," Ms Hua said.

"China has always implemented United Nations Security Council resolutions pertaining to North Korea in their entirety and fulfils its international obligations..."

However, on condition of anonymity, an official of the US State Department said: "We have evidence that some of the vessels engaged in these activities are owned by companies in several countries, including China."South Korea yesterday said it seized a Hong Kong-flagged ship suspected of transferring oil to North Korea in defiance of the sanctions.

A senior South Korean foreign ministry official said the ship, the Lighthouse Winmore, was seized when it arrived at a South Korean port late last month.

Seoul said it had obtained intelligence showing the Lighthouse Winmore transferring refined petroleum products to a North Korea-flagged ship, the Sam Jong 2, on Oct 19 in international waters between China and the Korean peninsula.

China's foreign ministry spokesman said she did not have information about the matter.

Ship tracking data in Thomson Reuters Eikon showed that the Lighthouse Winmore had its tacking transponder switched off in October. - REUTERS

WORLD