Violation of UN sanctions: Russia starts “oil for arms” trade with North Korea

Violation of UN sanctions
Russia launches oil-for-arms trade with North Korea

North Korea hopes to make progress in missile development through closer ties with Russia. But tons of oil also flows from Pyongyang for weapons, as satellite images show. Experts see this as confirmation of Russia’s development “from an international spoilsport to a criminal state.”

Russia has started supplying oil directly to North Korea – violating UN sanctions. This is reported by the “Financial Times”. At least five North Korean tankers were traveling this month to pick up oil products from the port of Vostochny in the Russian Far East, according to satellite images provided to the Financial Times by the Royal United Services Institute.

The North Korean-flagged ships, classified as oil tankers, all headed to the same berth operated by a Russian oil company in the port of Vostochny. They were then apparently loaded there. All five ships had their transponders switched off. They are the first documented direct sea shipments from Russia since the UN Security Council – with Moscow’s approval – imposed a strict cap on oil transfers in 2017 in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons tests. North Korea is allowed to import 500,000 barrels of oil per year; according to calculations by the research institute RUSI, a quarter of the annual volume has already been transported on the five ships.

South Korea fears that this constant supply of oil could free up new resources for North Korea’s armed forces and nuclear weapons program. Previously, North Korea had to rely on a complex and expensive network of criminal traffickers and ship-to-ship transfers.

“From spoilsport to criminal state”

“These oil shipments represent a frontal attack against the sanctions regime that is now on the verge of collapse,” Hugh Griffiths, a former coordinator of the U.N. body that monitors sanctions against North Korea, told the newspaper. “What we are seeing now is a clear arms-for-oil swap that blatantly violates the sanctions personally signed by Vladimir Putin and illustrates Russia’s journey in recent years from international spoilsport to criminal state,” Griffiths said.

North Korea began delivering thousands of containers of ammunition to Russia last August. According to the research institute RUSI, the port of Vostochny was also used as a transshipment point for Russian ships allegedly involved in the arms trade between the two countries. North Korea also hopes that closer ties to Russia will lead to progress in missile development.

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