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Russia Delivers Oil to North Korea in Defiance of UN Sanctions

Russia has supplied oil directly to North Korea this year as both regimes are openly defying UN sanctions on sales of petroleum to Pyongyang in response to its nuclear weapons tests, satellite images shared exclusively with the Financial Times have shown.   

North Korea has been under UN Security Council sanctions since 2017, but Russia is said to have supplied and smuggled oil to the country since then.

In August 2018, The Asian Institute for Policy Studies said while most of the sanction-bypassing oil trade with North Korea is thought to be originating from China, oil sales from Russia to Kim Jong-Un’s regime may be much larger than official figures suggest, as shell companies have been set up for illicit oil flows to Pyongyang.  

With a suspected oil-for-weapons deal with North Korea, Russia appears to have boosted its oil deliveries to Kim Jong-Un in exchange for munitions and other military equipment from North Korea to use in its war in Ukraine.

Now the satellite images, which UK think-tank Royal United Services Institute has shared with FT, have shown that in March alone, at least five tankers of North Korea have traveled to load petroleum products from the Vostochny Port, the biggest port in Russia’s Far East.

These deliveries are the first documented direct seaborne shipments of oil from Russia to North Korea since the UN sanctions were imposed in 2017, FT notes.

“These oil deliveries constitute a full-frontal assault against the sanctions regime, which is now on the brink of collapse,” Hugh Griffiths, a former coordinator of the UN panel monitoring North Korea sanctions, told the British newspaper.

The Russian and North Korean regimes have grown closer in recent years and have been exchanging supplies to help each other.  

Last month, South Korea’s Defense Minister Shin Won-sik said that some factories in North Korea are working full-time to produce weapons for Russia in exchange for food and other supplies.

“While North Korea's arms factories operate at 30 percent capacity due to shortages of raw materials and power, certain factories are operating at full capacity, which primarily produce weapons and shells for Russia,” Shin said at the end of February, as carried by South Korean news agency Yonhap.

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on March 26 2024 said:
    Why not? After all North Korea is an ally of Russia and has been supplying it with ammunitions.
    Therefore, Russia is returning the favour by supplying North Korea with crude oil.

    Moreover, when Israel implements yesterday's UN Security Council calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, then other countries might follow suit and implement UN sanctions against North Korea.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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