Allegations Chinese registered ships are trading oil to North Korean vessels at sea
US reconnaissance photographs have caught Chinese ships selling oil to North Korean vessels some 30 times, a South Korean news service claims.
The Chosunilbo cites South Korean government sources as revealing the photos captured numerous vessels engaging in the activity in the West Sea between China and South Korea.
“We need to focus on the fact that the illicit trade started after a UN Security Council resolution in September drastically capped North Korea’s imports of refined petroleum products,” the news service quotes a government official as saying.
Pyongyang is now allowed just 500,000 barrels of oil imports a year.
North Korea said it is a “pipe dream” for the United States to think it will give up its nuclear weapons, and called the latest UN sanctions to target the country “an act of war” that violates its sovereignty. The UN Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions against North Korea on Friday in response to its latest launch of a ballistic missile that Pyongyang says can reach anywhere on the US mainland.
The resolution was drafted by the United States and negotiated with the North’s closest ally, China. But the latest revelation may increase tensions between the two unwilling partners.
The US Treasury Department published surveillance photographs reportedly taken on October 19 of the North Korean vessel Rye Song Gang 1 lashed to a large Chinese vessel in deep waters. The image appears to show hoses transferring fuel oil between the two.
Such ship-to-ship trading violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 2375 which passed in September.
Chosunilibo says more than 30 ship-to-ship violations have been recorded since October.
“It is uncertain whether the Chinese government is deliberately looking the other way, but it seems unlikely that it is unaware given the sheer volume,” the South Korean news service states.
The oil exchanges are not the only alleged violation of UN sanctions by China.
Pyonyang monitor NKNews.org reports its ship tracking revealed that the North Korean cargo ship Kum Dae was one of several allowed to dock at a port in northeast China on November 2. It says satellite images reveal the port “handles various commodities which appear on the UN’s blacklist”.
The state-run China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) reportedly suspended sales of gasoline and diesel to North Korea in June in response to payment problems, previous reports state.
Beijing has now claimed it exported no oil products to North Korea in November, data released by the General Administration of Customs states. This includes fuel oil, diesel, jet fuel and gasoline.
But, according to a Reuters report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she didn’t know any details about the oil export situation.
“As a principle, China has consistently fully, correctly, conscientiously and strictly enforced relevant UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea. We have already established a set of effective operating mechanisms and methods,” she said at a regular briefing overnight.
Reuters says it is not known if Beijing is exporting crude oil to North Korea as it has not disclosed such trade data for several years. Pyongyang also sources some of its oil from Russia.