The Angara, a Russian vessel believed to have been moving weapons from North Korea to Russia since at least August 2023, has been spotted mooring at a Chinese port based on satellite images obtained by Reuters.

The ship has been berthed at Zhoushan Xinya Shipyard in Zhejiang, China, since Feb. 9 likely for maintenance after docking in January at North Korean and Russian ports with its transponder turned off, according to UK-based think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

Reuters said the ship was identified by its unique automatic identification system (AIS) transponder that was briefly turned on during its journey from North Korea to China.

The RUSI believed the vessel had made at least 11 trips and transported thousands of containers with weapons from the North Korean port of Rajin to the Russian far-east Dunai military port following a high-profile July visit of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Pyongyang. 

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The Chinese embassy in Washington told Reuters it was unaware of details surrounding the Angara but added that Beijing “always opposes unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction that have no asis in international law or mandate from the Security Council.”

The US State Department spokesperson told Reuters it was aware of “credible, open-source reports” surrounding the Angara’s moorage in China and had raised the issue with Chinese authorities.

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The spokesperson added that the Angara issue – alongside China’s role in Russia’s war in Ukraine – would be addressed during US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's upcoming visit to Beijing.

“When Secretary Blinken meets with his PRC counterparts this week, he will address a range of concerns, including Russia’s war against Ukraine and Russia-DPRK ties,” the spokesperson said whilst referring to the nations in their official names.

While there has been solid evidence of North Korean arms supplied to Russian troops in Ukraine, China’s role and position are less clear.

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Though China’s official stance on the war in Ukraine has been neutral with no evidence of it providing lethal aid to Russia, the bilateral receptions during diplomatic events were indicative of close ties between Beijing and Moscow, with Chinese President Xi Jinping praising Russian Vladimir Putin as an “old friend” during the former’s visit to Moscow in March 2023.

The March “shuttle diplomacy” tour of a high-ranking Chinese diplomat claimed to advance peace talks in Ukraine also yielded no results, with the diplomat’s reaction to meetings with Russian and Ukrainian officials being world part.

Beijing-Pyongyang relations have also been blossoming in recent months, with senior officials from both nations boasting of a “new heyday” in bilateral relations during a March visit to the North Korean capital by Beijing’s third highest-ranking official.

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