The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan has reported that a Maldivian-flagged tanker was seen lying alongside a North Korean-flagged tanker in the East China Sea, and that the two vessels could have engaged in ship-to-ship transfers.
According to a statement on the Japan foreign ministry website, the two vessels were spotted by an aircraft of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force at around midnight on February 24, 2018, some 250km eastern shore of Shanghai.
The Maldivian-flagged tanker ‘Xin Yuan 18’ was lying alongside North Korean-flagged tanker ‘Chon Ma San’, which was designated as a vessel of targeted sanction against North Korea by the US government, on February 23, just a day ahead of the reported incident.
The government of Japan also confirmed that ‘Chon Ma San’ had erased its vessel name.
“Judging from the fact that the two vessels lay alongside each other with their lights turned on at night, both vessels could have been engaged in some type of activity,” the statement read.
“Following a comprehensive assessment, the Government of Japan strongly suspects that they conducted ship-to-ship transfers banned by [the United Nations Security Council resolution].”
The statement also noted that the UN Security Council Committee has been informed of the incident, and that the information has also been shared with related countries, including countries with strong ties with Maldives.
The Maldivian government has not made any official comments regarding the incident yet.