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Steady oil supplies from China to North Korea are propping up Pyongyang and allowing it to avert an energy meltdown, according to new reports emerging from the area.
Beijing’s newest round of sanctions against Pyongyang apply only to oil and gas exports, not military supplies. Cheap North Korean workers still work in dimly-lit factories to continue progress in weapons factories and related projects.
Still, the Chinese military has plans to defend North Korea from any ideas of regime change from the United States.
“If China believes [it is] very much necessary to send troops inside to best serve its interests, I don’t see why China wouldn’t do so,” said Zhao Tong from the Carnegie Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, based in Beijing.
Fresh sanctions against North Korea cover seafood, coal and iron ore coming from the country into China, which costs Kim Jong-un’s regime $1 billion a year. The new measures are sure to cut deep into the impoverished country of 25.1 million people, 70 percent of whom are food insecure.
“North Korea’s dependency on Chinese fuel is China’s choke hold on Pyongyang,” Dennis Wilder, former senior director for Asia at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush Administration, told Bloomberg. “If this goes, the North Korean air force can’t fly jets and their electricity system can’t function,” Wilder noted.
Limited official statistics from China restrict the information available to the public regarding the extent of the energy trade between Pyongyang and Beijing. But recent comments by senior-level North Korean defector Ri Jong Ho said that North Korea was likely still buying diesel from Russian oil companies via trading companies in Singapore.
According to Ri, China supplies North Korea with around 500,000 tons of crude oil by pipeline, all toward the military, and all free of charge.
On Monday, the U.S. and South Korea launched their annual joint military exercises, prompting Pyongyang to warn that this “reckless behavior” could move the situation “into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war”, according to the official government newspaper.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…