North Korea eludes coal export ban via Vietnam – by Bertil Lintner (Asia Times – February 8, 2018)

Shipping records show a steady stream of North Korean coal shipments to Vietnam’s Cam Pha port, from where the fuel is likely re-exported in violation of UN sanctions

To carry coal to Newcastle is an old English idiom meaning to do something that’s obviously superfluous, as the northeastern English city is renowned for its coal-mining.

But the saying has new meaning in Southeast Asia’s context as security analysts in the region have recorded frequent arrivals of North Korean ships loaded with coal to the north Vietnamese port city of Cam Pha, in northern Quang Ninh province bordering China, from where coal is generally exported not imported.

Vietnam is a leading supplier of coal in the Asia-Pacific region and there would seemingly be no need for the country to import coal from North Korea.

According to official statistics, Vietnam exported more than two million metric tons of coal worth US$295 million in 2017, with the main importers being Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand.

The security analysts suspect that North Korean coal is being shipped to Vietnam and then re-branded and re-exported as Vietnamese coal to circumvent international sanctions against Pyongyang. Vietnam, an old communist ally with limited transparency and accountability, would be an ideal location for such re-shipments, the security analysts contend.

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