After the recent visits of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to China, Beijing has almost doubled the volume of crude oil pipeline shipments to North Korea, South Korea’s newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported on Thursday, citing a source in Beijing.
The surge in Chinese shipments to North Korea is raising additional concerns that China could undermine the international sanctions against Kim’s regime.
Pipeline volumes of between 30,000 tons to 40,000 tons are enough in the summer to keep the pipeline from China to North Korea unclogged, while this volume is around 80,000 tons in the winter, Chosun Ilbo’s source said. Although it’s summer, China has recently increased the oil flow to the winter levels, the source told the South Korean outlet.
Under the latest United Nations Security Council sanctions regarding oil sales to North Korea from December 2017, North Korea is allowed to import a maximum aggregate amount of 500,000 barrels of all refined oil products for 12 months beginning on January 1, 2018. The sanctions also introduced a limit of 4 million barrels - or 525,000 tons - per a twelve-month period as of 22 December 2017 for the supply, sale, or transfer of crude oil to North Korea.
If China sends 80,000 tons of oil to North Korea every month, this volume already brings the amount to 960,000 tons a year - above the 525,000 tons limit for a 12-month period in the sanctions, Chosun Ilbo argues.
Citing a confidential U.S. report to the UN sanctions committee, the AFP reported last week that the United States asked the UN Security Council to impose an immediate stop to all shipments of refined oil products to North Korea, after finding that Kim Jong-un’s regime had vastly exceeded the UN-restricted quota for oil product imports.
According to the U.S. report to the UN, North Korea received at least 759,793 barrels of oil products between January 1 and May 30, well above the 500,000-barrel annual quota.
The supplies have been made via ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean tankers that have called in port at least 89 times, the United States says. The United States also accused China and Russia for keeping oil sales to North Korea.