Russian refined oil exports to North Korea bounce back in August: data
Shipments follow a similar trend to last year, numbers provided to the 1718 Committee show
North Korean imports of Russian refined petroleum increased sharply in August after falling to yearly lows the previous month, data provided to the UN by Moscow shows.
According to Russia’s numbers, the DPRK imported 2,611 tonnes of refined products from its neighbor in August, over triple the much smaller 800-tonne import the previous month.
Russia’s export pattern so far this year is similar to 2018, when petroleum shipments dipped in July, only to start increasing again the following month, peaking over the winter period.
Comparisons with Chinese exports over the same time period indicate that refined oil shipments from the two countries occasionally oscillate, though both China and Russia both exported relatively similar amounts of refined petroleum to the DPRK in August.
Between them, the two countries exported nearly 5000 tonnes of refined oil to the DPRK in August, a relatively large number when compared to some previous months, though still a large shortfall when compared to presanctions levels.
UN member states exporting oil to North Korea must report the shipments to the 1718 Committee, which publishes some of the information on its website.
But the UN does make additional details of the trade public, with trade databases instead later filling in some of the gaps regarding types of exported products.
According to data from the ITC trade map, Russia’s reported exports mainly consist of light oils like gasoline, while China’s shipments lack any type of fuel products and instead comprise of other oil derivatives like tar and lubricants.
UN Resolution 2397 currently caps total refined oil exports from all member states to North Korea at 500,000 barrels per year, though official reported exports have so far fallen well below the annual quota.
But writing recently at 38 North, former member of the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt said that 1718 Committee had been unable to take enforcement action related to Pyongyang’s sanctions evasion practices.
In the latest PoE report published last month, the UN panel also noted that North Korea continues to import large amounts of oil illicitly, and may have breached the yearly quota in the first quarter of 2019.
“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued unabated its ship-to-ship transfers, in violation of the resolutions,” the PoE wrote.
“The Panel received a report from the United States of America and 25 other Member States containing … an assessment that the annual cap for 2019, as set by the Security Council, of the aggregate amount of 500,000 barrels of refined petroleum transferred to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, had been exceeded in the first four months of 2019.”
Previous analysis from NK Pro also noted how the reported imports compared to the illicit flows and China’s 2018 export of crude oil to North Korea, indicating that the total volumes of oil moving into North Korea may easily be sufficient for the DPRK’s needs.
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