U.S. Accuses North Korea of Violating Sanctions and Overselling Petroleum Products

A month after the summit between President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, the relations between the U.S. and North Korea are still quite unstable. Recently, the Trump administration has continued to raise tensions between the two countries. The U.S. has accused North Korea of having violated U.N. sanctions, claiming that North Korea has imported far more than the annual limit of refined petroleum products.

The U.S. has written a letter to the U.N. calling for the organization’s members to “illicit ship-to-ship transfers” and to “exercise enhanced vigilance.” The letter reported deliveries of refined petroleum products to North Korea which occurred from early January to late May 2018. While the U.S.’ letter did not state the exact number of barrels which have been imported to North Korea, the letter did contain an estimate. The letter stated that North Korea could have imported 1.4 million barrels of refined petroleum products if their transport ships were 90% packed. U.N. sanctions allow countries to import up to 500,000 barrels.

The U.S.’ report stated:

“We are providing for your information data on each of these port calls along with examples of a few selected images of individual [North Korean] tankers calling into port to unload refined petroleum products.”

The U.S.’ letter also stated that tankers have been called to deliver the petroleum products to North Korea at least 89 times this year. The message invites the United Nations to intervene with countries who continue to sell petroleum products to North Korea, specifically China and Russia. The U.S. bluntly stated that the sales must “immediately stop.”

Investigations regarding the sale of petroleum products to North Korea began after a senator from the Intelligence Committee asked the U.S. to look into North Korea’s current denuclearization efforts. Many images accompanied the report, which showed North Korean ships approaching the Nampo Port facility in the Taedong River. It is believed that these ships were going to deliver petroleum products obtained through a ship-to-ship exchange elsewhere. Most deliveries were made on a monthly basis, usually during the latter half of the month. This fact may indicate that the number of barrels sent to Kim Jong-un’s administration might be higher than previously thought.

While a member of the United Nations’ Senior Security Counsel did express concern over the current situation in North Korea, he stated that he was not surprised by the country’s actions. According to him, Kim Jong-un has constantly attempted to avoid sanctions. He confirmed that the U.N. will remain vigilant regarding North Korea’s actions, and will hold the country accountable for its actions if it has broken the law.

President Donald Trump still seems to be willing to cooperate with North Korea. On Thursday, he tweeted a letter that Kim Jong-un had sent to him, with encouraging messages for future U.S.-North Korea relations. Trump wrote:

“A very nice note from Chairman Kim of North Korea. Great progress being made!”

However, analysts have recently shown an increased skepticism towards North Korea’s professed denuclearization. This skepticism was further fueled by satellite images which showed North Korea making drastic developments to one of their nuclear facilities.  The images showed an advancement in the facility’s plutonium production reactor as well as the construction of several support facilities. The upgrades were planned long before the summit, which has led many to believe that North Korea has no intentions of following its stated commitment in the meeting. While the company that released the images stated that people should not jump to conclusions, they certainly started a relevant conversation about the future of foreign policy.

Featured Image via Flickr/U.S. Department of State

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