June 1 (UPI) -- Anxiety about a possible embargo on Chinese crude oil imports may be growing in North Korea, where the price of gasoline continues to rise, according to a Chinese journalist visiting the country.
Beijing has yet to announce oil sanctions to punish North Korea for its nuclear weapons development, but state newspaper Reference News reported Thursday gasoline at the pump now costs $6.25 per gallon, up more than 70 percent from $3.34-3.52 per gallon in mid-April.
That makes North Korea one of the most expensive countries for gasoline as demand may be outstripping supply, or panic buying may be gripping the country for fear of oil sanctions.
"At several gas stations around Pyongyang, sales of gasoline are being limited, and there is a ceiling on how much gas one person can purchase," the report stated. "Gas stations are operating irregularly, and in April cars that once roamed the streets in large numbers diminished in number."
Gas stations in North Korea are run by large-scale state-owned enterprises or military-controlled franchises, according to Reference News.
By May, however, traffic resumed normal levels, the report stated.
"The daily traffic situation has not changed much," the reporter wrote. "The number of cars on the streets of Pyongyang has not changed, and taxis are running as before and cab fare has stayed the same."
North Korea may have imposed restrictions on gasoline sales as the regime grew concerned sanctions could affect the energy supply, Yonhap reported.
South Korean news service Daily NK reported Wednesday the volume of crude oil imports has decreased significantly.
A North Korean source in North Hamgyong Province told the news service North Koreans were in a "state of panic" because of rising prices.
Some traders are smuggling oil into the country, according to the report.
A second source in North Hamgyong said, "The sense of crisis around the oil shortage is far more serious than what it appears from the outside."