While the United Nations Security Council has imposed harsh sanctions on North Korea – including banning nearly all of its exports – one country that signed off on the sanctions resolution, Russia, still continues to sell fuel to North Korea.
It becomes a game of deceptive hide-and-seek, as cargo ships full of fuel toward reportedly headed for other destinations leave Russia, and instead head to North Korea.
Reuters reported that at least eight North Korean ships recently left Russia with fuel and went back to North Korea, rather than to other destinations they had previously declared.
“Reuters has no evidence of wrongdoing by the vessels, whose movements were recorded in Reuters ship-tracking data,” it reported. “Changing a ship’s destination once underway is not forbidden and it is unclear whether any of the ships unloaded fuel in North Korea.”
However, it seems obvious to U.S. officials that this bait-and-switch game is taking place, especially given the most recent sanctions imposed upon North Korea that leave the country hurting financially.
The most recent sanctions ban about 90 percent of North Korea’s exports. They were passed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council – with both China and Russia voting in favor – following North Korea’s sixth ever successful nuclear missile launch and claims that the country now has a Hydrogen bomb it can place on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The sanctions, while watered down from original drafts, fully ban the country’s textile exports and reduce its oil and petroleum exports. This means about 90 percent of North Korea’s exports are now banned, as well as a complete ban on the country’s overseas laborers that provide nearly $500 million in revenue. Additionally, all foreign investment with North Korea is cut off, and the regime’s assets will be frozen.
“As part of North Korea’s efforts to acquire revenue, the regime uses shipping networks to import and export goods,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Marshall Billingslea recently told the Congressional Foreign Affairs Committee, Reuters reported. “North Korea employs deceptive practices to conceal the true origins of these goods. Pyongyang has been found to routinely falsify a vessel’s identity and documentation.”
The United Nations in August unanimously approved sanctions against North Korea in response to Kim Jong Un’s two successful intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in July.
Then, North Korea threatened “thousands-fold” revenge on the United States following those sanctions, which cut North Korea’s export revenue by $1 billion, or about a third. The sanctions banned North Korea from exporting coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood.