US Prepares For "Aggressive" High-Seas Crackdown On North Korea Sanctions Violators

The Trump administration is coordinating with key Asian allies to crack down on ships suspected of violating sanctions imposed on North Korea, Reuters reports.

The joint effort between the U.S. Coast Guard and regional partners including Japan, South Korea, Australia and Singapore, would go further than ever before to physically block deliveries of banned weapons, components for its nuclear missile program and other prohibited cargo. Suspected violators could be targeted on the high seas or in the territorial waters of countries which cooperate with the coalition. Up to now, suspect ships have been intercepted on a far more limited basis. 

Depending on the scale of the campaign, the U.S. might even devote a portion of air and naval power from the Pacific Command - though the plan would stop short of a full naval blockade according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

While suspect ships have been intercepted before, the emerging strategy would expand the scope of such operations but stop short of imposing a naval blockade on North Korea. Pyongyang has warned it would consider a blockade an act of war. -Reuters

North Korea is suspected of being just a few months away from having an ICBM capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, a program which has continued despite heavy sanctions which have been sidestepped by smuggling and ship-to-ship transfers of banned goods. 

“There is no doubt we all have to do more, short of direct military action, to show (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un we mean business,” said a senior administration official.

Dozens of countries and vessels linked to North Korean shipping trade were slapped with fresh sanctions by Washington Friday, while the U.S. urged the United Nations to blacklist entities known or believed to be smuggling prohibited cargo in or out of North Korea. 

"Today's actions will significantly hinder North Korea's ability to conduct evasive maritime activities that facilitate illicit coal and fuel transports," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters on Friday. "And limit the regime's ability to ship goods through international waters."

"Those who trade with North Korea do so at their own peril," added Mnuchin. "The United States will leverage our economic strength to enforce President Trump’s directive that any company that chooses to help fund North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs will not be allowed to do business with anyone in the United States."

"While we appreciate the fact that there haven’t been [recent nuclear] tests, that’s not exactly a terrific standard of what we’re applying," Mnuchin said. "Whether they’re Russian ships, whether they’re Chinese ships, we don’t care whose ships they are. If we have intelligence that people are doing things, we will put sanctions on them."

That said, some are concerned that the tougher measures may stoke tensions amid a tense period of diplomacy between nations. 

Tighter sanctions plus a more assertive approach at sea could dial up tensions at a time when fragile diplomacy between North and South Korea has gained momentum. It would also stretch U.S. military resources needed elsewhere, possibly incur massive new costs and fuel misgivings among some countries in the region.

Stoking tensions

Concerns have been raised that more aggressive enforcement of sanctions would trigger a military retaliation by North Korea, and a rebuke by U.N. members opposed to the coalition. 

China and Russia, which have blocked U.S. efforts at the United Nations to win approval for use of force in North Korea interdiction operations, are likely to oppose new actions if they see the United States as overstepping. A Chinese official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said such steps should only be taken under United Nations auspices.

Meanwhile, U.S. legal experts are analyzing the best approach to legally initiate the program, citing the most recent U.N. Security Council resolution calling for states to inspect ships on the open seas or in territorial waters. Rules of engagement are also being mapped out to avoid armed confrontation at sea, said officials. Directly boarding ships for inspections has not been ruled out, according to Mnuchin.

U.S. Coast Guard - Advanced Interdiction Team

QUESTION: Can you rule out the United States boarding and inspecting North Korean ships...


MNUCHIN: No, I -- I cannot rule that out.

U.S. officials, however, have privately said that such actions - especially the use of boarding crews, would be considered with the utmost caution on a case-by-case basis. Others have suggested that the use of less militarily powerful Coast Guard cutters would reduce the chance of military conflict over the use of warships. 

[insert: rId12_image2.jpg ]

U.S. Coast Guard interdiction method for interdicting drug shipments​​​​​​

In December we reported that Russian tankers were reportedly caught selling oil to North Korea on at least three occasions via transferring cargoes at sea during October and November. 

"The vessels are smuggling Russian fuel from Russian Far Eastern ports to North Korea," said the first security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. -Reuters

China, meanwhile, was allegedly caught by U.S. spy satellites selling oil to North Korea in October.

[insert: china ships refueling north korea.jpg ]

A government source said, “We need to focus on the fact that the illicit trade started after a UN Security Council resolution in September drastically capped North Korea’s imports of refined petroleum products.”  Meanwhile, on paper, China’s trade with North Korea virtually collapsed after Donald Trump unleashed a barrage of sanctions in September targeting North Korea’s imports of refined petroleum products.

The US. Treasury Department sanctioned an additional six North Korean shipping and trading companies and 20 of their ships after the satellite pictures surfaced. In the above picture, the North Korean ship named Ryesonggang 1, was easily identified and connected to the illegal sale of oil from China.

Interdiction in Chinese waters is something likely to be avoided, however - as the U.S. will likely inform Chinese authorities of banned cargo transfers and ask them to perform inspections, one official said. 

David Shear, former deputy secretary of defense for Asia for the Obama administration said “It’s probably impossible to stop everything, but you can raise the cost to North Korea.”



toady tmosley Sat, 02/24/2018 - 11:16 Permalink

Are you not entertained?

It's pretty obvious that the current command structure roles out the NK meme when they want to push something off the front page.

What's weird is the MSM falling for it... sure, Americans love their war porn, and that means a much-needed ratings boost, but isn't their gun control meme more important for their corporate masters at this point?


In reply to by tmosley

headless blogger stacking12321 Sat, 02/24/2018 - 12:40 Permalink

I think its only a matter of time. Maybe 5 years? 10....or at most 20 years left for the USA. It will finally implode from within and then once its been incapacitated, the world will flood in here and arrest all these filthy "leaders" and their administrations. 

In reply to by stacking12321

toady business as stusual Sat, 02/24/2018 - 12:09 Permalink

But it's not their agenda... they're just starting up their gun control meme again, and they're going to drop it for the war porn meme?

Then again, I haven't watched the MSM in a while... they might be ignoring the war porn meme/distraction to stick with the gun control meme. And I'm sure they'll be able to keep the Russian hacker meme going thru all the other memes, despite all evidence to the contrary!

In reply to by business as stusual

tmosley tmosley Sat, 02/24/2018 - 11:39 Permalink

Though come to think of it, this isn't actually a blockade, as they are not interdicting ships from countries that haven't sanctioned NoKo. Just ones that have, like China. That could in theory be considered an act of war on CHINA, but realistically probably not, as the Chinese government isn't acting against these companies themselves simply because they can't, for political reasons.

If China complains, the US should back off. Otherwise, it's open season.

In reply to by tmosley

rejected Blankone Sat, 02/24/2018 - 15:34 Permalink

They voted for it. Have no reason why? Stupidity in my opinion. The UN resolution can never be rescinded because the USA will always veto it.

The Russians have always wanted to be in the club. They seem to take any humiliation in stride which only emboldens the USA.

The Chinese are acting like paid whores. They are not ready for a battle with the USA yet.

So,,, unless Russia or China is willing to commit,,, The USA will probably get away with this piracy as well. The downside of this is it could provoke a NK attack, like our handling of Japan in WWII did.

In reply to by Blankone

NumbersUsa tmosley Sun, 02/25/2018 - 11:14 Permalink

"Despite the Founding Fathers’ admonition to enter “entangling alliances” with no foreign nations, “the U.S. has strangled itself in a cat’s cradle of entangling alliances,” says Kevin Barrett. As a result, the nation is mired in a series of wars for the benefit of one of those allied nations—Israel, which continues to pressure the U.S. to expand our wars into Iran. Given how quickly and how often those who took an oath to defend the Constitution instead defend an entangling alliance, the question is: “When will the traitors at home stop inciting treason abroad?

By K. Barrett 

In reply to by tmosley

NumbersUsa tmosley Sun, 02/25/2018 - 11:17 Permalink

"Despite the Founding Fathers’ admonition to enter “entangling alliances” with no foreign nations, “the U.S. has strangled itself in a cat’s cradle of entangling alliances,” says Kevin Barrett. As a result, the nation is mired in a series of wars for the benefit of one of those allied nations—Israel, which continues to pressure the U.S. to expand our wars into Iran. Given how quickly and how often those who took an oath to defend the Constitution instead defend an entangling alliance, the question is: “When will the traitors at home stop inciting treason abroad?

By K. Barrett 

In reply to by tmosley

Consuelo D.T.Barnum Sat, 02/24/2018 - 12:20 Permalink

Can't thank you enough for posting this link.   A wonderful primer for any homeschool program to give children (and adults with the capacity of an open mind), a proper contextual view of just what went on back in the day.   To some (like me), who even back in high school, mentally questioned the 'simplistic' manner in which which WWII events were presented, but lacked the knowledge of the historical context to engage in debate, this is a refreshing reminder of how the lust for power acts like a magnet to sociopathic types who seek political office...

Thank you Sir --- 

In reply to by D.T.Barnum