The British navy said on Sunday that “multiple ships of various nationalities” have broken U.N. sanctions targeting North Korea’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programmes.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said its Type 23 Royal Navy frigate HMS Richmond—which was detached from the Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) to take part in U.N. sanctions enforcement operations in the Indo-Pacific region—captured evidence of ships “apparently breaching U.N. sanctions” and collected updated intelligence on other ships of interest. The MoD said the evidence has been submitted to the U.N. Enforcement Coordination Cell.
The CSG21, which consists of nine ships, 32 aircraft, and 3,700 personnel, and is led by Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, was deployed in May for a 28-week deployment ending in the Indo-Pacific region.
Commander Hugh Botterill MBE, commanding officer of HMS Richmond, said the enforcement activity was “a critical moment” of the CSG 21 deployment.
“HMS Richmond is proud to have participated in the effort to curtail DPRK’s [Democratic Republic of Korea] WMD programmes, reporting on vessels of interest and providing valuable imagery and contact data,” Botterill said in a statement.
“My team located multiple ships of various nationalities apparently acting in contravention of United Nations Security Council sanctions, and located, tracked, and approached a number of ships that hadn’t previously been identified to the Enforcement Coordination Cell,” he said.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “North Korea’s ambitions to acquire Weapons of Mass Destruction destabilises the region and poses a threat to the world. This vital activity, part of the Carrier Strike Group deployment to the region, has frustrated those ambitions.”
The MoD added that the CSG 21’s series of exercises with Japan, the United States, and South Korea signalled “the UK’s enduring commitment to the Indo-Pacific.”
HMS Richmond is currently conducting a routine maintenance programme with Janan.
North Korea is under strict international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. Talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to give up those weapons in return for lifting sanctions have been stalled.
Earlier this month, a U.S.-based research group said in a report that smugglers suspected of evading sanctions on North Korea have turned to schemes to create fraudulent identities for sanctioned ships.
Reuters contributed to this report.