Russia and China on Thursday put a six-month hold on a request from the United States to the UN Security Council to halt all deliveries of refined oil products to North Korea, diplomats said. The United States, seeking to maintain pressure on the North to dismantle its nuclear program, asked a UN sanctions committee last week to ban further fuel shipments after accusing Pyongyang of using illegal imports to exceed a cap on permissible deliveries.
A UN sanctions resolution adopted last year set ceilings for North Korea of four million barrels of crude oil per year and 500,000 barrels of refined oil products. A cut-off of oil and fuel would have to be enforced primarily by China, which supplies most of North Korea’s energy needs, but also by Russia, which delivers some oil to Pyongyang.
Russia and China told the council that they needed more time to consider the US request and to review Washington’s allegations of sanctions-busting by North Korea. The move came ahead of a meeting on Friday between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Security Council in New York on Washington’s drive to persuade North Korea to scrap its nuclear and missile programs.
Diplomats expect Pompeo to push for strict enforcement of UN sanctions on North Korea during the meeting, which will also be attended by South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Japan’s UN Ambassador Koro Bessho. The United States last week sent a report to the sanctions committee that said North Korea had secured at least 759,793 barrels of oil products through ship-to-ship transfers at sea, according to the document, which was seen by AFP.
North Korean tankers reportedly obtain clandestine oil cargo in international waters from ships that often switch off their satellite tracking systems to prevent any monitoring of their activities.