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Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
North Korea likely conducted at least 89 ship-to-ship transfers to illicitly obtain refined petroleum products between January 1 and May 30, U.S. data provided to the United Nations and seen by NK News on Friday claims.
Pyongyang may have illegally imported up to 1,367,628 barrels of refined petroleum as a result of the transfers, upper-end estimates suggested, over double the 500,000 barrels authorized for export to North Korea each year by current UN sanctions.
Consequently, the U.S. recommended that the UN 1718 sanctions committee issue a “public note verbale to all UN Member States to inform them that the DPRK has breached the UNSCR 2397 OP5 refined petroleum product quota for 2018,” and that all countries should “order an immediate halt to all transfers of refined petroleum products to the DPRK.”
Since the May 30 data cut-off, the Japanese government has revealed details surrounding three extra cases of North Korean vessels caught conducting likely ship-to-ship transfers, with two on June 21 and June 22, and one on June 29.
North Korean skippers are thought to be conducting the at-sea transfers of fuel products to circumvent UN sanctions designed to limit how much Pyongyang can import each year.
Two countries were also flagged in the U.S. report for their role in provisioning on-the-books exports of petrol products supplementary to the barrels illicitly acquired through ship-to-ship transfers.
“As China and Russia have reported to the UN 1718 Committee in 2018, both member states continue to sell refined petroleum products to the DPRK,” the report said.
“These sales and any other transfer must immediately stop since the United States believes the DPRK has breached the UNSCR 2397 refined petroleum products quota for 2018.”
To evidence its claims, the U.S. included satellite imagery of four vessels described as either “likely in the process of delivering” or “delivering refined petrol products” that were “procured via illicit ship-to-ship transfer” at Nampo Port on the DPRK’s west coast.
The U.S. also published a table of all 89 suspected tanker deliveries which took place “likely to deliver refined petroleum products illicitly procured via STS transfers.”
The chart, which also included the total capacity of each ship, was used to calculate low, medium, and high-end estimates of the potential amount of refined petrol products delivered to the North as a result of the transfers.
The development comes as NK Pro data showed on Monday that gas prices in Pyongyang had dropped for the third time in a year, suggesting supply issues in-country are continuing to improve.
But while the prices have come down, in Pyongyang petrol still runs some 55% higher than in April 2017, the last data point prior to a major fuel price spike in North Korea.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: U.S. government