What Are N.Korea's Real Oil Imports?

  • By Lee Kil-seong

    September 13, 2017 11:12

    The latest UN Security Council resolution against North Korea lays bare the precise volume of the regime's annual oil imports.

    The resolution freezes the regime's imports of crude oil at the current level, which is presumed to be 4 million barrels a year or 540,000 tons. That is roughly equal to the 520,000 tons estimated by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency as the amount China is sending to the North via pipelines between Dandong and Sinuiju.

    The UNSC also put a cap on the regime's imports of refined oil products, including gasoline, diesel and fuel oil, at 2 million barrels a year. That is about 55 percent of the regime's total annual imports, according to officials in Seoul and Washington.

    If calculated back, the total is estimated at 4.5 million barrels, or about 600,000 tons. That means the North has been importing some 1.1 million tons of crude and refined oil products every year.

    The North has kept its oil imports statistics secret, and the official statistics of China, which supplies most crude oil for the North, showed "zero" for many years.

    KOTRA has estimated the North's annual crude oil imports at 520,000 tons, but that was based on the official statistics from China released before 2013.

    A source in Beijing said, "China is also thought to supply the North with up to 500,000 tons of crude oil free of charge annually, and sends a considerable amount of oil products by tanker truck and ship."

    The North also receives large amounts of oil products from Russia and through smuggling by sea. "It's possible that the UNSC's estimation is faulty unless China provided candid data," the source added.

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