July 25, 2017 11:52
Russia has roughly doubled oil shipments and other exports to North Korea even as the international community is working to turn off the spigot for the belligerent regime.
Moscow is fast emerging as a powerful backer of Pyongyang at a time when even China seems to be having second thoughts, and has been at the forefront of blocking discussion of further sanctions in the UN Security Council.
A government official in Seoul said on Monday, "There's something going on that the traditional Pyongyang-Moscow friendship alone isn't enough to explain. Moscow seems to be trying to squeeze in between Pyongyang and Beijing to raise leverage in its relations with Washington and Seoul."
◆ Upsurge in Exports
The volume of trade most clearly shows the growing closeness between North Korea and Russia. According to data from the [South] Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, Russian exports to North Korea amounted to US$48 million in the first five months this year, up 99.6 percent or nearly double the $24.04 million in the same period last year.
In turn the North exported just $1.36 million worth of goods to Russia in the first five months, only about 30 percent of last year's volume. That way total trade volume between the two countries grew 71.9 percent to an all-time high.
More alarming is that mineral fuel and oil took up 90.5 percent of Russia's exports, suggesting that Moscow is brazenly subverting sanctions from the international community.
Russian oil shipments to the North amounted to about $2.3 million in the first four months this year, more than double the shipments in the same period last year, according to Voice of America. In terms of volume, that was 4,100 tons of oil, up more than 150 percent from 1,600 tons last year.
◆ Blocking Tougher Sanctions
Russia has taken the lead in preventing the UNSC from agreeing further sanctions on the North since it tested an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4.
A fresh resolution drafted by the U.S. includes restriction on crude oil exports to the North and a ban on hiring North Korean slave laborers. Immediately after the test, Russia vetoed a UN statement because it said the rocket was not an "intercontinental" but an "intermediate-range" ballistic missile.
"In the past, Russia seemed to follow China's lead on the North Korean issue, but now Moscow seems to be taking the reins," a government source here said.
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