North Korea bypassing sanctions with illicit oil, coal transfers

Stephen Cunningham March 21, 2019

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- North Korea successfully evaded sanctions to import as much as seven-and-a-half times the allowed amount of refined petroleum last year, according to the U.S. government.

Its ports received at least 263 tanker deliveries of refined petroleum through ship-to-ship transfers, according to an update from the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of State and Coast Guard. If the tankers were fully laden at the time, North Korea would have imported 3.78 MMbbl of fuel.

In addition to the refined products imports, the country has also resumed exports of coal through ship-to-ship transfers in the Gulf of Tonkin, the update said.

The enforcement of sanctions is a key aspect of President Donald Trump’s effort to get Pyongyang to eliminate its nuclear program. The UN Security Council imposed sanctions, including bans on exports of iron, coal, lead, seafood and textiles as well as some oil-import restrictions in response to missile launches and nuclear weapons tests by North Korea in 2017.

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