Tighter North Korea Fuel Sanctions Unlikely to Hurt Regime

The United Nation’s newest sanctions on North Korea are far more likely to hurt ordinary people in the remote nation than slow Kim Jong-Un’s drive to develop missiles capable of hitting the U.S. with atomic weapons.

The UN Security Council unanimously approved new steps on Friday targeting North Korea’s market following last month’s launching of an intercontinental ballistic missile. The new constraints are meant to slash imports of refined petroleum products like diesel and kerosene by almost 90% from January, as well as further restrict transport and impose a 24-month deadline for expatriate North Korean workers to be shipped home.

“The likeliest effect on the heavier cuts from oil products will be on sectors nonessential to the survival of the regime,” Paul Musgrave, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said by email. “That means that the incidence of those cuts will fall hardest on ordinary North Koreans. ”

President Donald Trump’s government has spent much of 2017 urging other nations to ratchet up the pressure on Pyongyang, with much of that work focused on China, its biggest trading partner. Previous rounds of sanctions have failed to prevent Kim from progressing his nuclear program and analysts said the latest resolution is not likely to bring a resolution any closer.

To see for more about the latest UN sanctions on North Korea, click here.

North Korea on Sunday described the movement as an “act of war” and vowed to take revenge on the U.S. and other security council members. China’s imports from the nation in dollar terms are down almost 27 percent during the first 11 weeks of the year, while exports have gained 12 percent, customs figures revealed Saturday.

While the regime in Pyongyang is very likely to keep fuel supplies for its own use, the overall populace continues to battle in a market only a percent the size of South Korea. The sanctions may create additional resentment in the nation contrary to the Trump government, based on Hong Kang-chel, a former North Korean border guard who defected in 2013.

“Cutting petroleum supplies will only create North Koreans rage against the U.S. since they finally have to work more by hand on farms, while officials will keep driving cars utilizing smuggled petroleum,” Hong said. “North Korean workers sent overseas have attracted home the thoughts and cultures of capitalism that they witnessed, but Trump is leading the way for obstructing that path.”

The new resolution covers deliveries of oil products into the equivalent of 500,000 barrels each year starting Jan. 1.  In September, the authorities demanded imports to be cut into the equivalent of 2 million barrels from 4.5 million. Additionally, it limits crude imports at current levels of approximately 4 million barrels each year, which the U.S. has said China provides through the Dandong-Sinuiju pipeline.


The UN resolution said North Korea is promoting coal and other prohibited items “through deceptive marine practices” and is getting gas through ship-to-ship transfers, which can be employed in the oil industry to move liquids from one tanker into another at sea, preventing on-shore infrastructure.

North Korea has been using these methods more often, using boats from nation’s including China, based into Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper, mentioning U.S., Japanese and South Korean officials it didn’t title. The U.S. Treasury Department last month identified North Korea’s Korea Kumbyol Trading Co. as a company that has attempted ship-to-ship transfers, potentially of petroleum.

North Korean boats have received contraband oil out of what seem to be Chinese boats in international waters on about 30 occasions since October, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Tuesday, citing unidentified South Korean government and U.S. military sources.

To help stop the clinic, the UN measure says that countries can grab, inspect, or even impound any vessel in their ports if there are reasons to believe the ship has been used to transport banned items.

Zhao Tong, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, said the sanctions only grant authority for member nations to seize ships in its own territorial waters — which makes it impossible for the U.S. to inspect suspicious vessels inside Chinese or Russian areas.

Tracking, Enforcement

And even if ship-to-ship transfers could be tracked by satellite or other means of surveillance, even stopping them could be difficult, based on Musgrave and#xA0;Peter Hayes, executive director of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability.

“Tracking is most likely easy, provided U.S. remote sensing capacities,” Musgrave said. “However enforcement appears difficult. ”

The full effect of lower oil product provides probably won’t be sensed during winter as the nation’s agricultural sector, which absorbs “a surprising number of fuels,” is less active, Bill Brown, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, said by email.

“By next spring I suspect there’ll be calls for lifting the sanctions to help stop a drop in food distribution,” Brown said.  


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