North Korea has exported coal to Japan and South Korea via Russian ports in a probable violation of UN sanctions, Reuters is reporting.
In its January 25 report, Reuters cited three Western European intelligence sources it did not identify.
The UN Security Council in August banned North Korean exports of coal, one of the secretive state’s few sources of foreign cash, in response to ballistic-missile tests that violated existing sanctions.
However, the Reuters report cited the sources as saying that North Korea has shipped coal to the Russian ports of Nakhodka and Kholmsk at least three times since then.
The cargoes were then reportedly unloaded at docks at the Russian ports and reloaded onto ships that delivered them to South Korea or Japan.
The news agency cited an unidentified Western shipping source as saying that some of the cargoes reached Japan and South Korea in October 2017.
A U.S. security source confirmed the North Korean coal trade via Russia and it said it was continuing, Reuters reported.
It cited a European security source as saying Nakhodka “is becoming a transshipping hub for North Korean coal.”
Reuters said that the Foreign Ministry of Russia, which is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, did not respond to a request for comment sent on January 18.
Russia's UN mission informed the Security Council sanctions committee in November that Moscow was complying with the sanctions.
Russian lawmakers criticized the Reuters report. Pro-Kremlin legislator Frants Klintsevich called it a “conspiracy theory” and part of an "information war” against Russia.
North Korean authorities “have assured us that…they are exporting nothing and are suffering terribly because of that, so I rule out this possibility," said another Russian lawmaker, Anton Morozov.
With reporting by Reuters and Interfax