How North Korea Continues to Source Oil, Circumventing International Sanctions

Due to its nuclear and ballistic missile program, North Korea is subject to sanctions by the United Nations Security Council. Oil exports to Pyongyang are subject to very strict limits, but, according to UN experts and documents seen by AFP, they use fake ship registrations in the Pacific micro-states.

(Archived) A Hong Kong ship suspected of transferring oil to North Korea on December 29, 2017 off Yeosu, South Korea. Yonhap via REUTERS

By: RFI Follow


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with our correspondent in Seoul, Nicolas Rocca

North Korea's oil imports have been limited to just half a million barrels a year since 2017, far short of its energy needs.

While the data of each transfer is supposed to be reported to the UN, the country has mastered the art of circumventing sanctions. Various investigations have already revealed how Pyongyang would organize the transfer of oil on the high seas. According to reports by UN experts, ships allowed to reload with crude oil are siphoned off by smaller ones, which repatriate the cargo to North Korea.

Agence France presse says that 17 ships related to these activities would have been registered in small Pacific islands, such as the Cook Islands or Tuvalu. Boats flying the flag of these micro-states are not systematically monitored, which would allow Pyongyang to cover their tracks.

Read alsoStill no unity of the UN Security Council on the North Korean issue

U.N. investigators point the finger at ships such as the Anni, and the An Hai 6, registered in Niue, claiming to be leaving for Japan, before docking at the port of Nampo in North Korea. Countries where they are now registered according to the World Maritime Organization. Sophisticated methods that highlight the limits of Security Council sanctions. These depend on the will and the means available to the Member States to implement them. Already in 2020, experts submitted a report to the Council pointing to Pyongyang's violation of sanctions on energy supplies.

Read alsoNorth Korea: computer scientists allegedly deceive American firms to finance the ballistic missile program

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