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North Korea imports of refined fuel plummet amid COVID-19

Trade between North Korea and China is down significantly in 2020 after Pyongyang closed its borders in response to the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
Trade between North Korea and China is down significantly in 2020 after Pyongyang closed its borders in response to the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 1 (UPI) -- North Korea imported 142 tons of refined petroleum from China in August, a significant drop in imports from July, according to a report from the United Nations Security Council.

The Security Council sanctions committee on North Korea said the volume of refined petroleum Pyongyang imported from its biggest trading partner in August was one-10th the amount it acquired in July. Year-on-year, or compared to August 2019, the volume reflects a 93.6% decrease, Yonhap news agency reported Thursday.

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North Korea closed its border with China in January and has mostly restricted the flow of goods and people. Pyongyang depends heavily on Beijing for energy and assistance, however.

North Korea also imports fuel from Russia, but volumes are down. In August, North Koreans imported 32 tons of refined petroleum, a 98.8% decrease, according to the U.N. data.

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In total, North Korea has imported 17,294 tons of refined petroleum, equivalent to 129,000 barrels of fuel. Under U.N. sanctions Resolution 2397, U.N. member states are limited to exporting a total of 500,000 barrels of refined petroleum a year. The sanctions resolution was adopted in 2017, following the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile in November of the same year.

A U.S. State Department official told Radio Free Asia China must do more to prevent illegal trade of fuel and coal.

Data on China-North Korea trade comes at a time when the United States continues to point out sources of repression in North Korea.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the Vatican on Wednesday that Christian leaders "have an obligation to speak up for their brothers and sisters in Iraq, in North Korea and in Cuba," the State Department said.

The Trump administration has called on Pyongyang to return to dialogue. South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month called for the signing of an end-of-war declaration during his prerecorded speech to the U.N. General Assembly. North Korea has yet to respond to the requests.

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