SEOUL, The foreign ministry on Sunday dismissed Japanese media speculation that a South Korean vessel was involved in an illicit ship-to-ship transfer of oil to North Korea earlier this month.

The Japanese newspaper, Sankei Shimbun, has reported that a ship of Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force confirmed that a South Korea-flagged oil tanker approached a North Korean vessel in the East China Sea, possibly for the illicit transfer. Tokyo has requested that Seoul look into the allegations, the newspaper said.

Pyongyang has long been suspected of evading international sanctions through clandestine ship-to-ship transfers of oil and other items subject to international sanctions.

"The results of our investigation show that there was no ship-to-ship transfer of oil (to the North)," a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

The official added that the ministry has also notified Tokyo that there has been no illicit transfer.

"The (Seoul) government has been closely watching the related situation so as to sufficiently implement U.N. Security Council resolutions," he said. "Regarding this case, we have been closely cooperating with Japan by transparently sharing information."

Source: Yonhap News Agency