TOKYO: Japan has reported a suspected sanctions violation by Pyongyang to the UN after spotting an apparent cargo transfer involving a North Korean tanker, the foreign ministry in Tokyo said Tuesday.
The incident is the fifth time this year Tokyo has reported a cargo transfer by a North Korean vessel, in violation of sanctions over Pyongyang's banned nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
A military patrol plane spied the North Korean-flagged tanker alongside a small vessel of unknown nationality -- but which appeared to be flying what "seemed like" a Chinese flag -- in the East China Sea on the night of May 19, the ministry said in a statement.
"The (Japanese) government strongly suspects they were transferring goods, which is banned by UN sanctions," it said.
The ministry identified the North Korean tanker as the JI SONG 6, one of the vessels denied international port access by the UN Security Council.
Pyongyang is subject to a series of UN sanctions, including one prohibiting all member states from facilitating or engaging in ship-to-ship transfers of goods to or from North Korean-flagged vessels.
Tokyo's claims come amid a flurry of diplomatic activity ahead of an expected summit between the North's leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump.