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Oil lifeline to North Korea survives

Posted September. 12, 2017 07:36,   

Updated September. 12, 2017 08:03


The U.S.’ attempt to cutoff the oil supply to North Korea has gone down the drain due to the opposition of China and Russia. The initial draft of resolution of the UN Security Council proposed oil embargo for the first time, but the draft resolution appeared to have been weakened to maintain a cap, not stopping or reducing the supply of oil. The draft included a ban on refined petroleum product and textile imports. However, experts predict that its impact on North Korea’s economy would not be huge.

Reuters and foreign media reported on Monday that the U.S., China, and Russia have agreed to impose a cap of two million barrels a year on refined petroleum products, and a cap crude oil exports to North Korea at current levels. The draft dropped a proposed oil embargo, but has been weakened after negotiations under the table with China and Russia during the weekend. It means that China continues to supply 500,000 tons of crude oil supply via the pipeline under the Amnok River.

Instead, the draft intended to impose a cap of two million barrels (240,000 to 300,000 tons) a year on gasoline and other refined petroleum product exports to North Korea and demanded member countries to report their export volume to the UN each month. The U.S. regards that North Korea imports refined petroleum products from China and Russia and their annual volume are said to amount to 200,000 and 40,000 tons, respectively. Hence, the import ban would be ineffective when considering the two countries. North Korean defectors told that North Korea secures 200,000 to 300,000 tons of fuel oil each year through dealers in Singapore and other countries. Based on this, some argue that the new draft resolution is not meaningless.

The final draft no longer proposes blacklisting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The text that calls upon states to inspect vessels on the high seas and the one with regard to North Korean laborers abroad have weakened. The draft text proposing a ban on textile export survived in the final draft as the U.S. was initially suggested. Textile is one of the key exporting products of the North after coal and other minerals and its yearly export is estimated at 752 million dollars (850 billion won).

The UN Security Council is set to vote on Monday morning (local time). In order to pass, the resolution needs nine of the 15 Security Council members to vote in favor and no vetoes by any of the five permanent members including the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, and China. It appears that the UN Security Council would pass the resolution as key players have already agreed on the draft resolution.

Sung-Ha Joo zsh75@donga.com · Yong Park parky@donga.com