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For the first time details of an extensive anti-smuggling surveillance operation involving eight United Nations member countries in the East China Sea, in waters near China and North Korea, have been revealed by a new Wall Street Journal investigation.
WSJ reporters accompanied the USS Milius and an allied Japanese warship, cooperating further with military surveillance aircraft, on a mission to thwart sanctions busting illegal oil transfers on the high seas to North Korean tankers.
Report - Hand - Account - Instances - Ships
The stunning report provides a first hand account of in some instances Chinese ships turning off their transponders ("ghosting" international trackers) to covertly transfer petroleum products to North Korean bound tankers on the open waters.
One dramatic episode involved the US warship intercepting a cluster of 3 "ghosting" ships pulling near a UN-blacklisted tanker known for illegal smuggling operations into North Korea:
Ships - Group - Mooring - Tanker - Ships
One of the two smaller ships began to quickly move away from the group as the other loosened its mooring to the tanker. Both of the smaller ships carried Chinese flags. No flag was visible on the tanker.
The Milius’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Jon Hopkins, set a course to pull alongside the tanker.
Milius - Crew - Member - Lookout - Duty
“We got them,” said a Milius crew member on lookout duty.
The United Nations over a year ago imposed tight limits on North Korea's ability to import oil and petroleum products due to its banned nuclear testing and missile program.
Via - WSJ - Milius - Objectives - April
Via the WSJ: "The Milius changed objectives on April 1 after the sighting of other suspicious activity. Here, the Oceanic Success, a Mongolian-registered oil-products tanker, is seen from the Milius appearing to conduct a ship-to-ship transfer with a vessel directly behind it. A third ship with a red hull to the left appeared to be waiting to take part in a transfer with the Oceanic Success."
But Pyongyang has long been known to engage in aggressive...
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