The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) National Security Cutter Bertholf will arrive in Korea next Monday, which is the first time for a U.S. maritime security cutter to enter a Korean port since 2007. The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf has been stationed in the Japanese port of Sasebo since early March to monitor illicit ship-to-ship transfers that violate North Korea sanctions. The measure reflects the Trump administration’s strong determination to enforce North Korean economic sanctions until North Korea accepts an all-in-one approach to denuclearization
According to a military and maritime police source on Thursday, Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf will enter the Jeju Civilian-Military Complex Port around next Monday. It will join goodwill activities with the Korean maritime police and hold joint inspection exercises in the southern part of the Seogwipo on a virtual drug smuggling vessel.
Together with the South Korean National Maritime Police’s 5002 vessel, the cutter Bertholf will hold exercises and master the procedures needed to arrest vessels engaged in illegal activities such as inspection, tracking and using high-speed boats to board the vessels. Though the exercise is nominally known to track down drug smuggling vessels, it will also target illicit ship-to-ship transfers, including smuggling of oil and coal that are frequently conducted by North Korea. “The existence of Bertholf on the Korean Peninsula will be a significant pressure that will reduce illegal transferring activity,” said a source at the military.
The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf is also seen as a warning signal to the South Korean government, which has stressed the importance of inter-Korean economic cooperation and appeared to support easing of sanctions on North Korea. “The U.S. signals that it is intending to tighten its reigns on North Korea until it gives up its idea of a ‘gradual denuclearization,’ while urging South Korea to participate in stricter enforcement of sanctions on North Korea,” said Kim Seong-han, professor of International Relations at Korea University and former vice foreign minister.
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