Russian tankers have supplied fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months by transferring cargoes at sea, according to two senior Western European security sources, providing an economic lifeline to the secretive Communist state.
South Korean authorities have boarded and seized a Hong Kong-flagged ship suspected of violating United Nations sanctions by transferring oil to a North Korean vessel in October, its foreign ministry has said.
According to the report, Russian ships conducted ship-to-ship transfers at least three times during October and November.
China's critics say it has agreed to tough-sounding.
In September, Reuters reported that this year at least eight North Korean ships carrying fuel sailed from Russian Federation to North Korea despite officially declaring that they were headed to other destinations.
Asked at a regular briefing whether Chinese ships were illegally providing oil to North Korean ships, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang reiterated that China, including the military, strictly enforced United Nations resolutions.
The second source, who also confirmed the illicit activity, told Reuters, "there is no evidence that this is backed by the Russian state".
"China has always implemented UN Security Council resolutions pertaining to North Korea in their entirety and fulfils its worldwide obligations".
On Wednesday, when Hua, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, was asked about South Korean claims of a ship-to-ship oil transfer, she turned the tables by claiming news organizations did not have their facts straight.
China denies improper NK oil supplies after Trump criticism
Despite being flagged as Hong Kong, the Lighthouse Winmore has actually been chartered by a Taiwanese company called Billion Bunker Group.
He said he would not speculate on future operations but added: "Obviously if a government finds that there is a ship in their port conducting trade that was forbidden under the UN Security Council resolution, then they have an obligation and so far we have seen nations take that obligation seriously".
The Hong Kong government said it was "liaising with the Korean parties concerned to obtain further information about the incident, and will take appropriate actions as necessary". Just before Trump ran with the claim on his personal Twitter account, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang immediately denied the us and South Korea's version of events, saying, "The situation you have mentioned absolutely does not exist".
More likely, the governments of China and Russian Federation are turning a blind eye to the transactions.
China is North Korea's trading partner, and has repeatedly come under scrutiny as the global community hopes to force Pyongyang away from the nuclear program that is now bolstered by missiles able of delivering a warhead to the U.S. East Coast. It was not immediately clear whether the Lighthouse Winmore was involved in the transactions shown in the Treasury Department images.
Prior to that, it was active between India and the United Arab Emirates.
Like the U.S., China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and has voted in favor of sanctions against North Korea, despite being its greatest traditional ally.
In September, the Security Council put a cap of 2 million barrels a year on refined petroleum products exports to North Korea.
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