Chinese oil exports to North Korea increase in July: data
Exports following a similar pattern to 2018
Chinese oil exports to North Korea rose to yearly highs in July, Beijing’s customs figures show, though gasoline and diesel remained absent from reported exports.
Beijing’s shipments of refined petroleum products to the DPRK increased to $3.5 million in value in July, from around $3 million the previous month.
The July figures mark a continued upward trend, with shipments gradually increasing month-over-month since January lows when total inflows by value were just $993 thousand.
But although last year’s refined oil exports appeared more volatile they also followed a similar pattern, moving in an upward trajectory until the summer months before beginning a gradual decline.
North Korea’s reported oil imports from China appear insensitive to seasonal factors and cold temperatures, though the explanation could lie in the types of products being imported.
Shipments disclosed in Beijing’s customs data do not appear to include any commonly used fuels, including automotive fuels like gasoline and diesel.
The absence is notable as it goes well beyond the scope of the UN resolutions limiting oil exports to North Korea, which only cap total shipments and do not call for any type of fuel embargo.
Despite the wording of the resolutions, China has only reported one small monthly gasoline shipment to the DPRK since the middle of 2017.
But according to the UN Panel of Experts (PoE), North Korea’s sanctions circumvention techniques have now defeated the UN’s restrictions and the DPRK may have breached this year’s 500,000 barrel quota at some point in the first quarter of 2019.
In their latest mid-term report, the PoE cited figures and estimates provided by Washington and agreed to by 25 UN member states.
The U.S. arrived at its calculations by observing North Korean tanker traffic at the DPRK’s oil offloading terminal at Nampho, and offering the PoE a range of estimates based on the tankers’ capacities.
Washington concluded that even the most conservative estimates which assumed the North’s vessels were only delivering one-third of their capacity would have breached the Resolution 2397 quota by April 23.
“That communication, provided by the United States of America … and supported by 25 other co-signatories, included a request for the Committee to make an immediate determination that the petroleum ‘cap has been breached,'” the PoE wrote.
According to the PoE, Washington also called for the immediate halt of “all subsequent transfers of refined petroleum to the DPRK,” though the move was opposed by China and Russia.
“The Russian Federation responded on 18 June 2019 that, ‘at the current stage it is premature for the Committee to make a conclusive decision regarding the US proposal and to cease refined petroleum export to the DPRK,'” the PoE report reads.
“China noted on 18 June 2019 that it needed ‘more evidence and information to make a judgment on this issue.'”
It’s unclear why China would be against the prohibition, given that according to its own trade numbers it already has an apparent cut off in gasoline and diesel exports, while Russia’s reported fuel shipments to North Korea are also relatively minimal.
Edited by James Fretwell
- 01What to make of Kim Jong Un’s impromptu visit to Mount Paektu this week
- 02On party founding anniversary, North Korea bolsters Kim Jong Un’s leadership
- 03Fueling the country: tracking North Korea’s growing number of gas stations
- 04North Korea reinforces ideological education against “bourgeois” values
- 05“New ways of calculation”: Kim Myong Gil’s Stockholm press conference, in full
- 06The DPRK foreign ministry’s readout of Stockholm talks: key takeaways
- 07Why U.S.-North Korea talks in Sweden fell apart — and what might happen next
- 08N. Korea’s new submarine-launched ballistic missile: unpacking the Pukguksong-3