External Affairs

China Stops Oil Exports to North Korea Amidst Sanctions

China exported no oil products to North Korea in November, Chinese customs data showed, apparently going above and beyond sanctions imposed earlier this year by the UN.

A North Korean iron ore mine, near the North Korean town of Musan is seen in this general view taken on May 11, 2013. Credit: Reuters/John Ruwitch

Beijing: China exported no oil products to North Korea (DPRK) in November, Chinese customs data showed, apparently going above and beyond sanctions imposed earlier this year by the UN in a bid to limit petroleum shipments to the isolated country.

Tensions have flared anew over DPRK‘s ongoing nuclear and missile programmes, pursued in defiance of years of UN resolutions. Last week, the UN Security Council imposed new caps on trade with DPRK including limiting oil product shipments to just 500,000 barrels a year.

Beijing also has not imported iron ore, coal or lead from DPRK in November, the second full month of the latest trade sanctions imposed by the UN.

China, the main source of DPRK‘s fuel, did not export any gasoline, jet fuel, diesel or fuel oil to its isolated neighbour last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday.

November was the second straight month China exported no diesel or gasoline to DPRK. The last time China‘s jet fuel shipments to Pyongyang were at zero was in February 2015.

“This is a natural outcome of the tightening of the various sanctions against DPRK,” said Cai Jian, an expert on DPRK at Fudan University in Shanghai.

The tightening “reflects China‘s stance,” he said.

Since June, state-run China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) has suspended sales of gasoline and diesel to DPRK, concerned that it would not get paid for its goods, Reuters previously reported.

Beijing’s move to turn off the taps completely is rare.

In March 2003, China suspended oil supplies to DPRK for three days after Pyongyang fired a missile into waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan.

It is unknown if China still sells crude oil to Pyongyang. Beijing has not disclosed its crude exports to DPRK for several years.

Industry sources say China still supplies about 520,000 tonnes, or 3.8 million barrels, of crude oil a year to DPRK via an aging pipeline. That is a little more than 10,000 barrels a day, and worth about $200 million a year at current prices.

DPRK also sources some of its oil from Russia.

Total trade less than $400 billion

Chinese exports of corn to DPRK in November also slumped, down 82% from a year earlier, to 100 tonnes, the lowest since January. Exports of rice plunged 64% to 672 tonnes, the lowest since March.

Trade between DPRK and China has slowed through the year, particularly after China banned coal purchases in February. In November, China‘s trade with DPRK totalled $388 million, one of the lowest monthly volumes this year.

China has renewed its call on all countries to make constructive efforts to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula, urging the use of peaceful means to resolve issues.

But tensions flared again after DPRKon November 29, said it had tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile that put the US mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile Chinese exports of liquefied petroleum gas to DPRK, used for cooking, rose 58% in November from a year earlier, to 99 tonnes. Exports of ethanol, which can be turned into a bio-fuel, gained 82% to 3,428 cubic metres.


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