Beijing : China on Thursday said it was investigating allegations that a ship marked with Chinese characters transferred cargo to a North Korean vessel in a potential violation of UN sanctions on the high seas.

Japan has said a military patrol plane and an escort vessel observed the alleged transfer in the East China Sea last week. It is the third time this year that Tokyo has reported a cargo transfer by a North Korean vessel in violation of UN sanctions over Pyongyang’s banned nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.”China attaches high importance to the situation and is currently investigating this,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing.

“Recently, the relevant (Chinese) authorities issued a public notice demanding the strict prohibition of ship-to-ship trafficking in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions,” he said.

He added that China would deal with any individuals or businesses suspected of violating the resolutions “in strict accordance with China’s laws and regulations, based on all evidence”.

Japan said late Tuesday its navy found the Yu Jong 2, a North Korean-flagged tanker, alongside a small vessel of “unknown nationality” around 250 kilometres offshore from Shanghai. Four Chinese characters reading “Min Ning De You 078” — meaning “Fujian Province, Ningde City, oil tanker 078” in English — were on the small vessel, the Japanese foreign ministry said.

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