Gasoline Shortage in N.Korea as China Turns off Supply

  • By Lee Kil-seong, Cho Yi-jun

    April 24, 2017 11:03

    Gasoline appears to be in short supply in North Korea amid signs that China has cut off the flow to dissuade the North from conducting another nuclear test.

    Some gas stations in Pyongyang are selling gasoline only to the cars of staff of international organizations or diplomats, while others have closed down, the Associated Press reported Saturday.

    Long lines of cars formed in front of gas stations and prices have surged from 70 to 80 cents per kilogram to more than US$1.25. Gasoline is sold by the kilogram rather than liter there.

    Vans line up at a gas station in Pyongyang on Friday. /AP

    U.S. and Chinese diplomatic sources said it is unclear whether China has already cut off oil supplies or just threatened to do so. But it seems more than a coincidence that the development follows a summit earlier this month between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

    China' state-run Global Times at any rate has warned that Beijing could soon turn off the spigot. "As the upcoming nuclear test could potentially be hazardous to Northeastern China, sanctions imposed by Beijing within the United Nations framework will increase, thus dramatically decreasing the amount of petroleum exported to North Korea," it said.

    It added Beijing "will make sure the people of North Korea will not have to experience a humanitarian disaster" and stressed that the U.S. should rely on diplomatic means to deal with the North Korean nuclear crisis rather than resorting to military intervention.

    But it also signaled that China would stand by if the U.S. does launch a surgical airstrike on nuclear or missile facilities. "If Pyongyang's unwavering pursuit of its nuclear program continues and Washington launches a military attack on North Korea's nuclear facilities as a result, Beijing should oppose the move by diplomatic channels, rather than get involved through military action," it said.

    Instead, it made clear that the red line would be troops on the ground, warning China would intervene militarily if South Korean and U.S. troops cross over the inter-Korean border.

    Asked about online rumors that China has cut off oil supply to North Korea, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said it is "up to you" to believe them.

    Trump spoke over the telephone with Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday night to discuss steps to deal with the North Korean nuclear crisis.

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