How Illicit Oil Is Smuggled Into North Korea With China’s Help

How Illicit Oil Is Smuggled Into North Korea With China’s Help

Read more at New York Times

On a sunny, early morning in January, the oil tanker New Konk moved into a shipyard in China’s Fujian province for repairs. It was an otherwise routine event, but for two details.

First, the ship’s operators transmitted a false ship name, a deceptive practice often used to disguise a vessel’s origins. And second, the New Konk had been identified by the United Nations in early 2020 for illicitly delivering oil to North Korea.

The ship was neither confiscated nor reported by the Chinese authorities.

New satellite images obtained by The New York Times show that China has allowed the New Konk and similar tankers to use its infrastructure and territorial waters to smuggle oil into North Korea, undermining international sanctions. The U.N. Security Council asks member states to impound vessels within their territory that are believed to be involved in sanctions violations.

Refined petroleum products such as fuel are not only crucial to North Korea’s overall economy, but also to its nuclear and ballistic missile program, the target of the sanctions. Imports of refined petroleum products, currently capped at 500,000 barrels per year, are an essential pressure point for countries that favor strong economic penalties for North Korea.

China supported the U.N. Security Council resolution restricting North Korea’s fuel imports. But the images show the country has been willing to turn a blind eye to violations.