TOKYO -- The government on May 29 announced that the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) uncovered a potential smuggling operation involving a tanker registered with North Korea and a small ship hoisting a Chinese flag in the East China Sea earlier this month.
Government officials suspect the ships were trying to evade economic sanctions on Pyongyang by transferring cargo on the high seas.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said an MSDF P-3C patrol plane spotted the two vessels on May 19 in an area some 350 kilometers southeast of Shanghai. The ships were connected by a hose and engaged in some kind of activity, ministry officials said.
The case was reported to the United Nations Security Council's sanctions committee and Chinese authorities. This is the fifth case of apparent smuggling involving North Korea announced by the government of Japan.
(Japanese original by Yoshitaka Koyama, Political News Department)