About the Author
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
North Korea is interested in exploring energy cooperation with Azerbaijan – likely in the oil sector – DPRK foreign minister Ri Yong Ho told his Azerbaijani counterpart on Friday, according to the Eurasian country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Ri’s meeting with foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov occurred on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which is taking place in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku.
“Highlighting his visit historic, Yong Ho Ri (sic) stressed the importance of exchange of visits which would serve as a landmark for enhancing bilateral relations,” a press release on the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) website reads.
Ri “noted that DPRK is interested in cooperation with Azerbaijan in the field of energy, as Azerbaijan has (a) long history in exploitation and processing oil,” it added.
According to the MFA, Ri also suggested that North Korean architects be sent to “explore the architecture of Baku.”
Ri also met with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on Thursday and, according to local media, made a speech at the opening day of the meeting in which he criticised larger powers for interfering in the affairs of smaller states.
While cooperation in the energy sector is not prohibited by current multilateral sanctions, if the cooperation between the two countries were to involve the transfer of oil products it would be subject to UN Security Council Resolution 2397, adopted on December 22.
Resolution 2397 prohibits states from directly or indirectly supplying, selling, transferring all crude oil to North Korea, unless approved of by the 1718 Committee on a case-by-case basis for purely humanitarian uses.
However, that ban does not apply with respect to crude oil that for a period of a year after December 22, and for twelve months periods thereafter, does not exceed 4 million barrels or 525,000 tons in the aggregate per 12 month period.
Refined petroleum products also fall under similar prohibitions.
Any cooperation also cannot involve joint ventures or cooperative entities with the DPRK, as they are banned outright by UNSC sanctions.
The willingness to cooperate in the energy sector appears to be in its infancy, though it wouldn’t be the first time the DPRK has inquired about energy cooperation overseas.
In May 2009, then-DPRK foreign minister Pak Ui Chun traveled to Brazil with a delegation and inquired about deepwater oil exploration and drilling – according to WikiLeaks cables. The inquiry did not bear fruit, however.
“The DPRK delegation was poorly prepared for this discussion and was unable to get into any specifics of the matter, and Brazil refused their request,” the cable reads.
Other previously attempted cooperation between Azerbaijan and the DPRK has also not been successful, with the two attempting, contrary to arms embargos, to deal in the transfer of surface to air missiles and pistols.
However, the deal appeared at an impasse over the location for where the necessary weapons testing would take place.
The deal ended when a weapons dealer, Michael Ranger, was arrested and sentenced to 3 and a half year and two and a half year sentences to run concurrently for his involvement in arranging the deal.
Ri, who was in China to meet with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi prior to his trip to the NAM meeting, is scheduled to travel to another member state of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and then onto Russia on April 9 for a two day visit that will involve meeting Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.