Russian oil supplies to North Korea fell to yearly lows in July: UN data
Drop is similar to that which occurred last year, indicating a seasonal low
North Korean imports of Russian oil products dwindled in July, Moscow’s figures reported to the UN show, though similarly low levels were also recorded last year.
UN member states exporting oil products to North Korea are required to report the shipments to the UN’s 1718 Committee, which tracks the trade via their website.
China and Russia are so far the only countries who have reported any shipments to the committee, while total exports from all member states must not exceed 500,000 barrels per year.
Moscow’s latest numbers show that the country’s reported exports remain well short of approaching the yearly quota, with July shipments falling to their lowest levels in a year.
The July shipment of 850 tonnes is the smallest reported export since the same month in 2017, when Russian exports fell to just over 500 tonnes, one of the smallest monthly totals since the beginning of the current sanctions regime at the end of 2017.
But if exports follow a similar pattern to last year, Moscow’s reported shipments should begin ticking upwards again, with overall shipments from Russia generally trending upwards.
According to trade data from Moscow which is not published by the UN 1718 Committee though is available via international databases like the ITC trade map, Russia’s exports also typically include refined fuels like gasoline and diesel.
This contrasts with China’s reported trade numbers which only contain less widely used refined products like industrial lubricants and oils, leaving Moscow as North Korea’s sole official fuel exporter.
But according to the UN Panel of Experts (PoE), North Korea is also sourcing large quantities of refined fuel via off-the-books methods.
According to their latest mid-term report published earlier in September, North Korea may have breached the yearly refined petroleum quota within the first quarter of 2019.
The PoE noted that North Korean tankers were headed to waters near Shanghai to conduct prohibited ship-t0-ship transfers, though also highlighted one DPRK tanker’s journey to Russian waters.
The PoE also reported that in light of the frequency of illicit North Korean oil tanker activity, Washington had called for the suspension of all further refined oil products to the DPRK.
But both Russia and China opposed the move, saying that the evidence provided by the United States was insufficient.
“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 wrote.
The UN panel also noted that North Korea’s economy appeared stable despite the restrictions on oil, dovetailing with previous NK Pro reports noting the lack of gasoline and diesel price fluctuations in the North Korean capital.
“Economic indicators reflecting overall stable prices for gasoline and diesel within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are indicative of a lack of domestic shortages, notwithstanding international sanctions,” the PoE said.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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