China has halted the sales of oil products to North Korea, but...

According to Chinese customs data, Beijing has stopped selling oil products to its largest trading partner, North Korea.  China had previously refused to buy coal or iron ore from the Kim regime.

But U.S. satellites showed Chinese ships trading for oil with North Korean vessels just recently, raising questions about the Chinese commitment to denying North Korea energy supplies in accordance with U.N. sanctions.

Fox News:

China did not export gasoline, jet fuel, diesel or fuel oil, nor did Beijing import any coal or iron ore, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing Chinese customs data. It was the second straight month China did not export any diesel or gasoline to Pyongyang, according to the report.

"As a principle, China has consistently fully, correctly, conscientiously and strictly enforced relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea. We have already established a set of effective operating mechanisms and methods," China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

The U.N. sanctions, implemented earlier this year, aimed to dramatically limit oil products to North Korea as retaliation for their nuclear and missile testing.

According to South Korea's Chosun Ilbo, U.S. spy satellites have caught Chinese ships selling oil to North Korea thirty times in the last three months.

According to South Korean government sources, the satellites have pictured large Chinese and North Korean ships illegally trading in oil in a part of the West Sea closer to China than South Korea.

The satellite pictures even show the names of the ships. A government source said, "We need to focus on the fact that the illicit trade started after a UN Security Council resolution in September drastically capped North Korea's imports of refined petroleum products."

The U.S. Treasury Department placed six North Korean shipping and trading companies and 20 of their ships on sanctions list on Nov. 21, when it published spy satellite images taken on Oct. 19 showing a ship named Ryesonggang 1 connected to a Chinese vessel. 

The department noted that the two ships appeared to be illegally trading in oil from ship to ship to bypass sanctions.

Ship-to-ship trade with North Korea on the high seas is forbidden in UNSC Resolution 2375 adopted in September, but such violations are nearly impossible to detect unless China aggressively cracks down on smuggling. 

The problem is that any oil embargo imposed on the North in the event of further provocations will probably be futile as long as illegal smuggling continues.

It is uncertain whether the Chinese government is deliberately looking the other way, but it seems unlikely that it is unaware given the sheer volume.

The fact that the trades take place in international waters gives the Chinese government plausible deniability.  But given how tightly the Chinese government keeps track of  its trade, it is highly unlikely that Beijing is unaware of the smuggling.

What is the purpose of telling the world they are obeying U.N. sanctions while surreptitiously still selling oil to the North?  The fact is, a complete cut-off of oil to the Kim regime would result in the Chinese government's worst nightmare coming true: hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of refugees flowing over their border with North Korea.  Better to play a public game of appearing to adhere to U.N. sanctions than the prospect of risking chaos erupting on the border.

North Korea is the most heavily sanctioned state in U.N. history, and the consequences for ordinary people have been catastrophic.  The U.N. Food Program estimates that 18 million people are at risk of starvation due to Kim's maniacal obsession with building nuclear weapons and a drought that severely cut food production this year.  Even North Korean soldiers who have recently defected have shown signs of malnutrition.

What this adds up to for China is a humanitarian disaster if North Korea can't feed its people.  The U.N. program recently cut back daily food rations to the most vulnerable North Koreans – pregnant women, women who recently gave birth, and children – to just 66% of the minimum requirement to live.  If citizens receiving international aid can't be fed, what does that mean for the masses of North Koreans who can't get access to the food program?

Kim has made it clear that he doesn't care about his own people's lives.  There is a real danger that if the regime begins to collapse, Kim will launch his missiles in a spasm of violence and death that would seal the fate of his regime – and take many innocent people with him.

According to Chinese customs data, Beijing has stopped selling oil products to its largest trading partner, North Korea.  China had previously refused to buy coal or iron ore from the Kim regime.

But U.S. satellites showed Chinese ships trading for oil with North Korean vessels just recently, raising questions about the Chinese commitment to denying North Korea energy supplies in accordance with U.N. sanctions.

Fox News:

China did not export gasoline, jet fuel, diesel or fuel oil, nor did Beijing import any coal or iron ore, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing Chinese customs data. It was the second straight month China did not export any diesel or gasoline to Pyongyang, according to the report.

"As a principle, China has consistently fully, correctly, conscientiously and strictly enforced relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea. We have already established a set of effective operating mechanisms and methods," China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

The U.N. sanctions, implemented earlier this year, aimed to dramatically limit oil products to North Korea as retaliation for their nuclear and missile testing.

According to South Korea's Chosun Ilbo, U.S. spy satellites have caught Chinese ships selling oil to North Korea thirty times in the last three months.

According to South Korean government sources, the satellites have pictured large Chinese and North Korean ships illegally trading in oil in a part of the West Sea closer to China than South Korea.

The satellite pictures even show the names of the ships. A government source said, "We need to focus on the fact that the illicit trade started after a UN Security Council resolution in September drastically capped North Korea's imports of refined petroleum products."

The U.S. Treasury Department placed six North Korean shipping and trading companies and 20 of their ships on sanctions list on Nov. 21, when it published spy satellite images taken on Oct. 19 showing a ship named Ryesonggang 1 connected to a Chinese vessel. 

The department noted that the two ships appeared to be illegally trading in oil from ship to ship to bypass sanctions.

Ship-to-ship trade with North Korea on the high seas is forbidden in UNSC Resolution 2375 adopted in September, but such violations are nearly impossible to detect unless China aggressively cracks down on smuggling. 

The problem is that any oil embargo imposed on the North in the event of further provocations will probably be futile as long as illegal smuggling continues.

It is uncertain whether the Chinese government is deliberately looking the other way, but it seems unlikely that it is unaware given the sheer volume.

The fact that the trades take place in international waters gives the Chinese government plausible deniability.  But given how tightly the Chinese government keeps track of  its trade, it is highly unlikely that Beijing is unaware of the smuggling.

What is the purpose of telling the world they are obeying U.N. sanctions while surreptitiously still selling oil to the North?  The fact is, a complete cut-off of oil to the Kim regime would result in the Chinese government's worst nightmare coming true: hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of refugees flowing over their border with North Korea.  Better to play a public game of appearing to adhere to U.N. sanctions than the prospect of risking chaos erupting on the border.

North Korea is the most heavily sanctioned state in U.N. history, and the consequences for ordinary people have been catastrophic.  The U.N. Food Program estimates that 18 million people are at risk of starvation due to Kim's maniacal obsession with building nuclear weapons and a drought that severely cut food production this year.  Even North Korean soldiers who have recently defected have shown signs of malnutrition.

What this adds up to for China is a humanitarian disaster if North Korea can't feed its people.  The U.N. program recently cut back daily food rations to the most vulnerable North Koreans – pregnant women, women who recently gave birth, and children – to just 66% of the minimum requirement to live.  If citizens receiving international aid can't be fed, what does that mean for the masses of North Koreans who can't get access to the food program?

Kim has made it clear that he doesn't care about his own people's lives.  There is a real danger that if the regime begins to collapse, Kim will launch his missiles in a spasm of violence and death that would seal the fate of his regime – and take many innocent people with him.

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