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North Korea breached U.N. sanctions with refined oil imports, report says

North Korea breached U.N. sanctions with refined oil imports, report says
North Korea has been smuggling refined oil imports at sea after closing its border with China and restricting the flow of goods, according to a Japanese press report. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- North Korea violated international sanctions with ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products at sea, according to a Japanese press report.

NHK reported Monday that the Kim Jong Un regime deployed a Panamanian-registered tanker to procure 4.4 million barrels of fuel, including gasoline and kerosene, from January to September 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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The reported information from the United Nations Security Council's expert panel indicates North Korea exceeded caps on refined oil imports by about nine-fold.

The limit has remained at 500,000 barrels per year after the Security Council passed sanctions Resolution 2397 in December 2017 following the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile in November of the same year.

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Before the resolution, North Korea officially imported about 2 million barrels of oil annually, according to Voice of America.

The U.N. panel of experts' report, which will be made public next month according to NHK, includes recommendations for governments to do more to manage their ships at sea.

Japan has previously released surveillance photos taken at sea of ship-to-ship transfers, often involving North Korean vessels and their Chinese partners. China has said it has complied with international sanctions, but still could be admitting North Korean guest workers to factories in China.

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Beijing is North Korea's biggest trading partner. Before the pandemic China also was a major source of tourism revenue, and North Korea's Kim Jong Un was preparing to admit visitors to Yangdok Hot Springs, a high-priority project in 2019.

North Korea sealed its borders in 2020, but has begun to promote the hot springs resort in state media.

Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Sunday that "echoes of happiness" were ringing from the resort in an article that included photos of North Koreans using the facilities.

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The article also mentioned a ski resort and a riding stable at Yangdok were sites "overflowing with happiness" during the Lunar New Year holidays.

Defectors in the South have said mass mobilization of unpaid laborers and soldiers are deployed to build the sites mostly suited to the tastes of the North Korean leader.

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