US offers up to $5 million for info on North Korean shipper

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information about a Singapore-based businessman already accused by the Justice Department of facilitating fuel shipments to North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions.

Kwek Kee Seng, who directs a shipping agency and terminal operations company, was charged last year with arranging the deliveries, with prosecutors alleging that he used front companies and false documentation to hide the scheme. Officials say that business helps enable North Korea's nuclear proliferation programs.

The U.S. government seized a tanker ship that was used for the fuel deliveries, the 2,734-ton M/T Courageous, prosecutors have said. One exchange caught on satellite imagery showed the ship transferring more than $1.5 million worth of oil to a North Korea-flagged ship, the prosecutors said.

Kwek remains at large despite a warrant that has been issued for his arrest.

The State Department on Thursday said it was offering up to $5 million through its Rewards for Justice program. Kwek was also among a group of people and firms sanctioned last month by the Treasury Department.

The announcement of a reward came amid heightened tensions with North Korea, which on Thursday fired at least six missiles into the sea, including an intercontinental ballistic missile that triggered evacuation warnings and halted trains in northern Japan.

The Biden administration said in response to the launches that it is willing to take “all necessary measures” to ensure the safety of the American homeland as well as South Korea and Japan, and warned of unspecified “additional costs and consequences” if North Korea detonates a nuclear test device for the first time since September 2017.

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Eric Tucker, The Associated Press