A day after three South Korean firms were caught importing North Korean coal and pig iron, the United States backed South Korea saying that "it is a reliable partner in the maritime implementation of the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council."
In a statement, US State Department spokesperson Katina Adams was quoted by Yonhap News Agency as saying, "The Republic of Korea (ROK) is a faithful and reliable partner in the maritime implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions. The United States and the ROK work closely together on North Korea issues, and remain in close contact to coordinate our unified response to the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)."
On Friday, the Korea Customs Office (KCS) said that the three South Korean business organisations brought in 35,038 tons of North Korean coal and pig iron worth 6.6 billion won (USD 5.86 million) between April and October last year.
The KCS said that the firms brought the North Korean coal to South Korea from a port in Russia and earned commission fees in facilitating the export of the commodity to other countries. The agency added that the North Korean pig iron was smuggled inside South Korea via a paper firm in Hong Kong. The iron was acquired in exchange for selling Russian coal to North Korea.
The shipment of goods that arrived in South Korea violated the country's maritime law and also a UN sanction, wherein Pyongyang is barred from exporting coal, iron and other minerals that could fetch them profits and help the North Korean government in their nuclear development and ballistic missile programme.
Meanwhile, Adam said, "We are aware that the ROK government has initiated an investigation."
Although North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made a commitment to halt its nuclear weapons programme, a UN confidential report revealed that the reclusive nation was reportedly continuing to build nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
North Korea has become a virtual pariah in the international community since the UN imposed tough sanctions on the country, after conducting nuclear tests and launching three intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) last year.