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UN slaps port ban on ships dodging N. Korea curbs

NEW YORK

The UN has slapped a global port ban on four vessels found violating sanctions against North Korea, the head of an expert panel has said in what he described as an unprecedented move.

The United States led a drive at the Security Council to impose two recent sets of sanctions to punish Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile tests.

“There are four vessels that have been designated by the committee. The designation doesn’t mean an assets freeze or travel ban. But it’s a port ban,” said Hugh Griffiths, coordinator of a UN Security Council panel on North Korea sanctions, adding the ships were found “transporting prohibited goods”.

“It’s a pretty swift and decisive action by the committee,” he said, adding that the ban went into effect on October 5.

Griffiths later told reporters that “this is the first time in UN history” that the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Pyongyang has prohibited ships from entering all ports. According to MarineTraffic, a maritime database that monitors vessels and their moments, Petrel 8 is registered in Comoros, Hao Fan 6 in St. Kitts and Nevis, and Tong San 2 in North Korea. It does not list the flag of Tong San 2 but said that on Oct. 3 it was in the Bohai Sea off north China. Griffiths said the four ships were officially listed on Oct. 5 “for transporting prohibited goods,” stressing that this was “swift action” by the sanctions committee following the Aug. 6 Security Council resolution that authorized port bans. That resolution, which followed North Korea’s first successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, also banned the country from exporting coal, iron, lead and seafood products. Those goods are estimated to be worth over $1 billion _ about one-third of the country’s estimated $3 billion in exports in 2016.

Griffiths was speaking at the conclusion of the second UN meeting on enforcing North Korea sanctions.

A source close to the matter said the four ships were found carrying coal, seafood and iron ore, exports banned by a UN resolution imposed in August.

The ban was expanded last month to include textiles and North Korean guest workers and also capped oil exports.

North Korean diplomats were present at the meeting but did not speak, according to diplomats.

According to a source, the listed ships were the Petrel 8, Hao Fan 6, Tong San 2 and Jie Shun. According to the MarineTraffic website, the first three fly the flags of Comoros, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and North Korea. The Jie Shun is not listed on the site. “It is crucial that resolutions are fully enforced,” Inigo Lambertini, Italy’s deputy representative to the UN said.

“Sanctions are not the final objective. Just a means. But of course, to be effective, sanctions must be applied by everybody,” he added.

North Korea’s UN envoy last week accused the US of working to block economic development and denounced sanctions imposed on poor countries as a bid to “destroy modern civilization”.

Ambassador Ja Song Nam said North Korea will withstand the blow of sanctions and continue “along the road of building the socialist power by dint of the spirit of self-reliance and self-development.” The latest set of sanctions were in response to Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test — the largest yet — and the firing of two missiles over Japan.

Agence France-Presse