Japan’s Minister Kono Slams Effort On North Korea

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono speaks during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China April 15, 2019. (Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via REUTERS)

Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono said in an interview with the Financial Times that sanctions on North Korea have holes which need to be cracked down by the international community.

According to Mr. Kono, North Korea continues to find an alternative to get around the sanctions by transferring cargoes between ships at sea, harvesting funds from North Koreans working abroad and hacking attacks on cryptocurrencies.

Mr. Kono said that there are a lot of ship-to-ship transfers going on, getting oil products to North Korea, and getting North Korean coal to some countries. He added that North Korean ships are involved and several other countries are involved, albeit not directly or not knowingly.

The comments of the Japanese minister shows the desire of Japan to pressure North Korea after negotiations between the United States ended without progress towards the destruction of the nuclear arsenal of North Korea.

According to Japan, they have recorded at least 12 incidents that North Korea tankers lye alongside other ships in international waters since 2018. According to Japan, North Korea potentially transfers cargos that exceed sanction limits based on the size of the ships.

They also claim that they have spotted many other questionable ship-to-ship transfers with a lesser degree of certainty. They also said that the ships bear many false markings. Recently, the United States stopped the assets of two Chinese shipping companies questioned for busting sanctions.

Mr. Kono said that there is an international operation going on in the East China Sea to prevent ship-to-ship transfers. He added that they are also asking and sharing information with China so we hope China will tighten its grip on this issue. According to him, the recent summit between the United States President Donald Trump and the North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi will not result to the decommissioning of North Korea's nuclear weapons and the only way out of the sanctions was to make the right decision to get rid of all the weapons of mass destruction and missiles of all ranges. Kim Jong Un said last week that they will deal a serious blow to those who impose sanctions.

The relationship between Japan and the Korean Peninsula is problematic. The relationship with Seoul went down following the decision of South Korean's Supreme Court to require Japanese companies to pay reparations to wartime victims of forced labor despite a 1965 treaty which completely settled the conflict between them. Mr. Kono also said that they were really shocked to see the decision. He added that they didn't expect it.

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