(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 5-9, photo)
SEOUL, July 16 (Yonhap) -- Foreign-flagged ships suspected of carrying North Korean coal docked at and departed from Japanese ports and Tokyo did not take action against them, in potential violation of U.N. sanctions, Seoul's spy agency was quoted as saying Tuesday.
Cargo ships, such as the Togo-flagged Shinning Rich and the Belize-flagged Jin Long, made port calls in Japan, lawmakers told reporters, citing a closed-door briefing by the National Intelligence Service (NIS).
"Some ships, on which the Korean government imposed entry bans, recently entered Japanese ports," the agency said.
"We've told Japan that the move could constitute violation of U.N. sanctions, but Japan has not taken proper measures and allowed their entry, citing a lack of domestic law. Japan's move is lukewarm and passive."
Last year, the South Korean government banned four ships suspected of transporting North Korean coal from entering South Korean ports.
North Korea is banned from exporting coal, iron ore and other mineral resources under Resolution 2371, passed in August, 2017. U.N. sanctions call for a country to capture and look into a vessel suspected of engaging in prohibited activities with North Korea.
The Seoul spy agency's briefing could serve to counter Japan's claim that South Korea allegedly violates U.N. Security Council resolutions on the North.
In placing export curbs on South Korea, Japan has recently raised suspicion that hydrogen fluoride shipped to South Korea from Tokyo was funneled to North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions. The material can be used to produce chemical weapons.
The Korean government immediately rebutted Japan's claim as groundless.
The NIS also added North Korea has been suffering from a sharp drop in trade and a shortage of foreign currency amid international sanctions.
"North Korea faces serious droughts and food shortages with precipitation declining by some 30 percent this year from a year ago," it added.
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