Russia, China delay US bid to cut off oil to N.Korea

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UNITED NATIONS, United States, July 19, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Russia and China on Thursday asked for more time to consider a request from the United States to the UN Security Council to halt all deliveries of refined oil products to North Korea, diplomats said.

The United States asked a UN sanctions committee last week to ban further shipments after accusing North Korea of exceeding a cap on the fuel deliveries through illegal imports.

Under a UN sanctions resolution adopted last year, crude oil supplies to North Korea were limited to four million barrels per year and a ceiling of 500,000 barrels of refined oil products per year was set.

A cut-off of oil and fuel would be primarily enforced by China, which supplies North Korea with most of its energy needs, but also Russia, which has delivered some oil to Pyongyang.

The move by Russia and China came ahead of a meeting on Friday between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Security Council in New York on Washington’s drive to persuade North Korea to scrap its nuclear and missile programs.

Diplomats expect Pompeo to push for continued strict enforcement of UN sanctions on North Korea during the meeting, also to be attended by South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Japan’s UN Ambassador Koro Bessho.

The United States last week sent a report to the sanctions committee that said North Korea had secured at least 759,793 barrels of oil products through ship-to-ship transfers at sea, according to the document seen by AFP.

The practice involves North Korean tankers that obtain clandestine oil cargo in international waters from ships that often switch off their satellite tracking system to prevent any monitoring of their activities.

“Russia is closely examining this request and is seeking additional information on every single case of ‘illegal’ transfer of petroleum to the DPRK claimed by the US,” said the Russian mission in an email to council members seen by AFP.

“We also request the US side to provide additional factual information to facilitate all states to study and make judgment,” said the Chinese mission in its response to the council.

The council last year adopted three rafts of sanctions targeting North Korea’s economy in response to Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test and a series of ballistic missile launches.

North Korea’s exports of raw commodities were banned and supplies of oil — vital for the country’s military program — were severely restricted.