Over the Yellow Sea, a team of French reconnaissance aircraft experts continued to scan the sea, looking for signs of contraband going to North Korea.
They joined the international mission of implementing UN sanctions against Pyongyang. The daily work of these naval experts is to conduct reconnaissance flights from the U.S. Futenma base in Okinawa, Japan.
On November 2nd, on the Falcon 200 reconnaissance plane, a 6-person crew of the French Navy used radar and the ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) to detect any signs of anomaly. AIS helps provide information about the identity and route of ships at sea.
But their best tool is still visual observation. The two crew members were sitting by the window of the plane, scanning the sea with binoculars and taking pictures. “We are the eyes of the United Nations in the region,” Guillaume said.
Suddenly, the crew entered a state of high alert. They found a ship shut down by AIS, which was considered suspicious. The pilot immediately changed course and descended to 150 feet above the water twice to identify the ship’s name usually engraved on the stern, and attempted to communicate with his crew via radio.
Guillaume said that if suspicious behavior occurs, the entire team needs a “friendly and professional response.” “In the context of international tensions in the region, our goal is to avoid deterioration. We must be tough but polite,” he said.
Moving a little further, the team found two other ships standing side by side with some suspicious signs: pumps connecting a larger, seemingly full vessel to a smaller, possibly full vessel. It is a merchant ship.
A team member explained that this smaller vessel is “very suitable for carrying contraband, but it may also be just a refueling operation for fishermen”.
After the French reconnaissance team contacted the big ship, the crew could not explain why the boat connected the pump to them.
After suspecting that this was an illegal fuel diversion, the French crew’s task was to collect as much information as possible about the two ships and then send it to the United Nations to investigate the violation. Resolutions 2375 and 2397 prohibit the sale, supply, or transportation of natural gas and oil to North Korea. In case of violation, the owners of the two ships can be sued.
In mid-October, a group of French naval officers arrived in Japan from a Polynesian base in the Pacific. The French army has been participating in North Korean surveillance missions with eight other countries since 2018, under the control of the French Navy. Coordinating agency responsible for implementing UN resolutions.
For France, after announcing its Indo-Pacific defense strategy in 2019, these tasks are a way to enhance Paris’s position in the region.
In addition, Hugo Decis, an analyst at the Institute for International Strategic Studies in London, United Kingdom, commented that the tasks that France is carrying out also show that “the attention to the region goes beyond the priorities of the Indo-Pacific region”.
Desis said this confirms that “France’s ability to coordinate with partners and allies has contributed to France’s prestige as a Pacific power.”
Wu Huang (follow Agence France-Presse)