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MSDF watching for N.Korea smuggling in Yellow Sea

MSDF watching for N.Korea smuggling in Yellow Sea

The Yomiuri ShimbunMaritime Self-Defense Force vessels and patrol aircraft have been conducting vigilance and surveillance activities in the Yellow Sea west of the Korean Peninsula and in the Sea of Japan since late past year to deter North Korean attempts to smuggle refined petroleum products and other items through ship-to-ship transfers on the high seas, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Following a request from the USA military in December to the Japanese government, MSDF ships have been stationed in the Yellow Sea to keep a close watch on foreign ships transferring oil to North Korea, the Japan Times reported.

The government will promote cooperation with the global community on the matter by also utilizing the USA -led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), the multinational framework to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

A senior MSDF official, however, admitted that it is not clear whether the Japanese efforts would yield substantial results in foiling suspected oil smuggling to North Korea. "The activities have significance in tightening the net around North Korea, but the actual effects remain uncertain".

So far the MSDF sends vessels to areas where its P-3C aircraft find suspicious ships while patrolling daily over the East China Sea and elsewhere.

The MSDF takes photographs and compiles information. It informs the United States military when it observes suspicious activity.

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The mission is purely aimed at "warning and monitoring" activities in waters surrounding North Korea, the sources added.

"We can not forcibly investigate ships".

North Korea has become a virtual pariah in the global community after conducting nuclear tests and launching three intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) previous year. Under the U.N. Security Council resolution, member nations are requested to inspect ships if they are suspected of transporting banned items.

The rare talks come amid the increasing tension between the two countries, as South Korea earlier seized a Hong Kong-flagged oil tanker returning after allegedly transferring oil to North Korea.

Their primary task is to foil efforts by North Korea to acquire refined petroleum products from foreign cargo carriers in the Yellow Sea as well as the Sea of Japan.


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