US Confiscates Iran Oil Cargo on Tanker

Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet sails at Marmara sea near Istanbul, Turkey January 10, 2023. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik
Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet sails at Marmara sea near Istanbul, Turkey January 10, 2023. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik
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US Confiscates Iran Oil Cargo on Tanker

Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet sails at Marmara sea near Istanbul, Turkey January 10, 2023. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik
Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker Advantage Sweet sails at Marmara sea near Istanbul, Turkey January 10, 2023. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik

The US confiscated Iranian oil on a tanker at sea in recent days in a sanctions enforcement operation, three sources said, and days later Iran seized another oil-laden tanker in retaliation, according to a maritime security firm.

The cargo seizure is the latest escalation between Washington and Tehran after years of sanctions pressure by the US over Iran's nuclear program. Iran does not recognize the sanctions, and its oil exports have been rising.

Tehran says its nuclear program is for civilian purposes while Washington suspects Iran wants to develop a nuclear bomb.

According to Reuters, Maritime security company Ambrey said the US confiscation took place at least five days before Iran's action on Thursday.

"Ambrey has assessed the seizure by the Iranian Navy to be in response to the US action," it said in an advisory to clients.

"Both tankers were Suezmax-sized. Iran has previously responded tit-for-tat following seizures of Iranian oil cargo."

The sources familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue, said Washington took control of the oil cargo aboard the Marshall Islands tanker Suez Rajan after securing an earlier court order. The tanker's last reported position was near southern Africa on April 22, ship tracking data showed.

The US Navy said Iran seized a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, the latest seizure or attack by Tehran on commercial vessels in sensitive Gulf waters.

Iranian state TV said on Friday the tanker ignored radio calls for eight hours following a collision with an Iranian boat, which left several crewmen injured and three missing.

"Before using force, we tried to call the vessel ...to stop but they did not cooperate," Iranian deputy navy commander Rear Admiral Mostafa Tajodini told the broadcaster.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was aware of the Gulf of Oman seizure and reaffirmed support for international maritime law, a UN spokesperson said on Friday.

Last year the US tried to confiscate a cargo of Iranian oil near Greece, which prompted Tehran to seize two Greek tankers in the Gulf. Greece’s supreme court ordered the cargo returned to Iran. The two Greek tankers were later released.

In a step likely to exacerbate tensions, 12 US senators on Thursday urged President Joe Biden to remove Treasury Department policy hurdles that have prevented the Department of Homeland Security from seizing Iranian oil shipments for more than a year.

In 2020, Washington confiscated four cargoes of Iranian fuel aboard foreign ships that were bound for Venezuela and transferred them with the help of undisclosed foreign partners onto two other ships which then sailed to the US.



North Korean Official Criticizes US for Expanding Support for Ukraine 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un smile during their meeting at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport outside Pyongyang, North Korea, on June 19, 2024. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un smile during their meeting at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport outside Pyongyang, North Korea, on June 19, 2024. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
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North Korean Official Criticizes US for Expanding Support for Ukraine 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un smile during their meeting at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport outside Pyongyang, North Korea, on June 19, 2024. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un smile during their meeting at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport outside Pyongyang, North Korea, on June 19, 2024. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

A top North Korean military official on Monday criticized the United States over its expanding military assistance to Ukraine, reaffirming the reclusive state's support for Moscow in the Ukraine war, according to state media KCNA.

Washington and Seoul have been increasingly alarmed by deepening military cooperation between Russia and the North, and have accused them of violating international laws by trading in arms for Russia to use against Ukraine. Moscow and Pyongyang have denied any arms transfer.

A pact signed by Russia's Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during Putin's visit to Pyongyang last week commits each side to provide immediate military assistance to the other in the event of armed aggression against either one of them.

Putin on Monday thanked Kim for his hospitality during the trip which brought ties to an unprecedented level, the Kremlin said on Monday.

Analysts say the pact would lay the framework for arms trade between the two countries and facilitate their anti-US and anti-West coalition.

Pak Jong Chon, one of North Korea's top military officials, said Russia has the "right to opt for any kind of retaliatory strike" in a statement carried by KCNA on Monday, adding if Washington kept pushing Ukraine to a "proxy war" against Russia, it could provoke a stronger response from Moscow, and a "new world war".

He referred to comments by the Pentagon last week that Ukrainian forces can use US-supplied weapons to strike Russian forces anywhere across the border into Russia.

Senior officials of South Korea, the US and Japan condemned "in the strongest possible terms" deepening military cooperation between North Korea and Russia in a joint statement released by Seoul's foreign ministry on Monday.

Russia may have received about 1.6 million artillery shells from North Korea from August to January, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, analyzing data from a US security nonprofit C4ADS that shows 74,000 metric tons of explosives moved from Russia's far east ports to other sites mainly along the borders near Ukraine.

Putin's mutual defense agreement with North Korea has the potential to create friction with China, which has long been the isolated state's main ally, the top US military officer said on Sunday.

North Korea plans to send construction and engineering forces to Russia-occupied territories of Ukraine as early as next month for rebuilding work, a South Korean cable TV network TV Chosun reported earlier, citing a South Korean government official.

Those forces, working overseas under the disguise of construction workers to earn hard currency for the regime, would be moved from China to those Russia-held regions, the network said. South Korea's foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment on the TV Chosun reports.