Russia resumes oil exports to North Korea after pandemic hiatus

Russia resumed oil exports to North Korea late final 12 months, in keeping with UN information, because the remoted regimes’ deepening ties drew US warnings that Pyongyang is planning to ship extra weapons to help Vladimir Putin’s conflict effort in Ukraine.

Knowledge launched by the UN this week confirmed Russia equipped 67,300 barrels of refined petroleum to North Korea between December 2022 and April 2023, the primary deliveries recorded since September 2020.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has assiduously curried favour with Putin since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the leaders providing one another materials and political assist.

In a press release marking Russia’s nationwide day on Monday, Kim pledged his “full help” for Putin and referred to as for “nearer strategic co-operation” between their international locations, in keeping with North Korea’s state information company.

Kim added he was “holding fingers firmly with the Russian president, in conformity with the frequent need of the peoples of the 2 international locations”.

The amount of Russian transfers to North Korea constitutes a tiny proportion of its exports, which have been as excessive as 8mn barrels a day together with each crude and refined fuels earlier than the conflict in Ukraine.

However the commerce factors to a reciprocal effort to foster nearer ties between Moscow and Pyongyang, which was fast to endorse the invasion of Ukraine in February final 12 months, and was simply one among 4 international locations aside from Russia to oppose a UN Basic Meeting decision condemning the conflict.

The US State Division expressed concern this week that North Korea was “planning to ship extra navy tools to Russia”.

It mentioned the US had confirmed that North Korea had already accomplished a supply of infantry rockets and missiles to the Kremlin-linked personal navy firm Wagner Group.

Any purchases of weapons from North Korea would violate UN resolutions to which Russia is a signatory as a everlasting member of the UN Safety Council.

Following North Korea’s sixth nuclear check in 2017, the UN Safety Council imposed a cap on transfers of refined oil to North Korea at 500,000 barrels a 12 months, far under the nation’s vitality wants.

All transfers have to be reported to a UN sanctions committee, however solely a small fraction are in apply, and North Korea is understood to evade the sanctions by way of illicit ship-to-ship transfers.

The UN information additionally confirmed that China, which has maintained a gentle provide of refined oil to North Korea all through the pandemic, delivered 35,669 barrels in January and February this 12 months.

In response to Chinese language customs information, North Korean exports to China additionally reached the very best degree in 5 years in April, suggesting that Pyongyang has relaxed harsh border restrictions imposed in early 2020. The oil commerce from Russia to North Korea had dropped to zero in October of that 12 months, in keeping with the UN information.

Western diplomats fear that a rise in North Korean cross-border commerce with Russia and China will additional embolden Kim’s regime because it makes regular progress in growing its nuclear weapons programme.

Moscow and Beijing have repeatedly blocked US-led Safety Council resolutions condemning Pyongyang’s ballistic missile programme, most not too long ago after a failed navy spy satellite tv for pc launch late final month.

Extra reporting by David Sheppard in London

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