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N Korea at crossroads

North Korean ship suspected of illicit cargo transfer at sea

Japan reports eighth sighting to the UN ahead of Pompeo's visit to Pyongyang

TOKYO -- A North Korean tanker recently made what appeared to be a liquid cargo transfer in the East China Sea, a suspected violation of international sanctions, Japan's Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

The sighting comes as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepares to visit North Korea in hopes of shedding more light on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program, which leader Kim Jong Un has promised to renounce, but reports suggest is actually being expanded.

A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ship spotted the North Korean-flagged An San 1, which is subject to a United Nations Security Council asset freeze and port entry ban, alongside a vessel of unknown origin last Friday.

A hose was connecting the two ships, according to the ministry, and the Japanese government reported the sighting to the U.N.

Ship-to-ship transfers to or from North Korean ships are banned by Security Council resolutions. Friday's sighting marks the eighth alleged transfer reported by Japan.

In March, an opposition party in the Maldives charged that a ship registered in the Indian Ocean island country was helping North Korea dodge sanctions. The Maldives government denied involvement by Maldivian-flagged vessels in smuggling.

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