U.S. Accuses North Korea of Oil Smuggling, Asks U.N. to Halt All Deliveries of Oil

The Associated Press
Chinatopix via AP

The United States asked the U.N. Security Council on Thursday to halt the delivery of all refined oil products to North Korea because the North Koreans were caught smuggling a huge amount of oil during the first half of this year in defiance of sanctions.

AFP reports that the U.S. delivered a confidential report to a United Nations sanctions committee documenting some 89 instances of sanctions violations, generally involving tankers transferring oil while at sea.

According to the report, the North Koreans took delivery on 759,793 barrels of oil between January and May, far exceeding their annual quota of 500,000 barrels. U.N. experts have also concluded that North Korea illegally imported oil products to support its nuclear missile program.

“The committee was expected to take five days to consider the request, which China and Russia are expected to block,” AFP noted.

The U.S. intelligence briefing asserted that most of the illegal oil was imported with Chinese and Russian help in a deliberate effort to undermine international pressure against North Korea’s push for nuclear missiles. The Trump administration asked the U.N. to formally reprimand China and Russia for these activities.

The Wall Street Journal details the allegations against Beijing and Moscow:

Previously sanctioned ships have already been spotted by Western intelligence agencies flouting U.N. Security Council and U.S. sanctions, efforts that were resisted in part by Beijing. The U.S. had this year praised China for doing far more than it ever had to enforce international sanctions that stemmed the flow of trade and money across its borders to its ally North Korea. But U.S. officials say China has relaxed it sanctions enforcement efforts of late. These officials note that China may have been concerned about warming ties between Washington and Pyongyang, which risked sidelining Beijing in nuclear talks and possibly undermining China’s strategic advantage in the region.

Meanwhile, U.S. and U.N. officials have cited Russian firms and individuals for abetting North Korea, activities that those officials say are to some extent allowed by Moscow as part of continuing confrontation with the U.S. through proxies.

Specifically, the declassified intelligence briefing prepared for the U.N. panel overseeing North Korea sanctions documented scores of shipments into North Korea and detailed dates, cargoes, tankers and volumes of deliveries. The briefing, drafted for a panel meeting later Thursday, called out China and Russia in particular and included high-resolution photos of some of the tankers caught in the act.

The United States asked the U.N. sanctions committee to “urgently inform all U.N. member states and the general public that North Korea has breached the quota” and advise them to exercise “enhanced vigilance” against Pyongyang’s efforts to obtain refined oil products, according to the Associated Press.