Japan on Tuesday claimed that it had detected a ship that appeared to have a Chinese flag violating the sanctions imposed by the United Nations on North Korea , Reuters reported. Beijing has repeatedly stated that it is complying with the restrictions imposed on Pyongyang and that it would penalise any country caught breaching them.

“Following a comprehensive assessment, the government of Japan strongly suspects that they conducted ship-to-ship transfers banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions,” a statement by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Tokyo’s statement said that a Japanese P-3 maritime patrol plane had spotted the illegal transaction off Shanghai on May 19.

In April, the United Nations Security Council blacklisted dozens of ships and shipping firms for allegedly smuggling oil and coal to North Korea. Five of the vessels blacklisted were based in China.

Kim-Trump summit

The announcement comes ahead of the historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.

Soon after the summit was announced, North Korea threatened to cancel the meeting following a joint military exercise by the US with South Korea.

Both countries have oscillated over holding the summit. On May 24, Trump called off the summit, blaming Pyongyang’s “tremendous anger” and “open hostility”. This came hours after North Korea announced it had dismantled its nuclear bomb test site in Punngye-ri. A day later, North Korea said it was still open to resolving problems with the US “at any time in any way”.

Trump then said his administration was in talks with North Korea and hinted that the summit may go ahead as planned. Kim Jong-un has also expressed his “fixed will” that the summit should go ahead.