Russia engaged in more extensive oil exports to North Korea than had been previously reported, by setting up an illicit trade network that is likely still being used today to evade United Nations sanctions, according a South Korean research organization.
A recent report issued by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul used Russian customs data to document how “one North Korean state enterprise purchased 622,878 tons of Russian oil worth $238 million,” between 2015 and 2017.”
While China is North Korea’s main oil supplier, the ASAN estimate for Russian oil exports to North Korea is significantly higher than the $25 million in sales for the same period that was reported by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) in Seoul.
“Smuggling has always been an important element in the cross-border trade between North Korea and it’s important allies. What the Chinese government and the Russian government to a lesser extent have been doing is to turn a blind eye to these activities,” said Go Myong-Hyun, a North Korea analyst with the Asan Institute For Policy Studies in Seoul.
The Asan report comes amid allegations that Russia potentially violated international sanctions imposed on North Korea by granting thousands of new work permits to North Korean laborers. Moscow had denied any such actions.
The Trump administration also imposed targeted U.S sanctions on a Russian bank for allegedly doing business with a person blacklisted for involvement with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
On Friday U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called the allegations against Russia, “very troubling.” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on “the Russians and all countries to abide by the U.N. Security Council resolutions and enforce sanctions on North Korea,” while attending the ASEAN Regional Forum in Singapore on Saturday.