Chinese Gas Companies Make Daily Gas Shipments to North Korea, Ignoring Sanctions Limits

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A gas truck waits for customs clearance to supply Chinese LPG gas to North Korea.
A gas truck waits for customs clearance to supply Chinese LPG gas to North Korea.

Sources in China have spotted Chinese trucks hauling liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for shipment to North Korea, causing doubts that China is doing enough to enforce sanctions laid out by the U.N. Security Council (UNSC).

The sanctions, aimed at depriving North Korea of resources that could be funneled into its nuclear program stipulate a cap on LPG exports.

The trucks were spotted in Hunchun, Jilin province, just across the border from the north-easternmost parts of North Korea.

“Chinese liquefied gas vehicles bound for North Korea are waiting in line at the customs checkpoint these days,” said a Chinese citizen source of Korean descent from Hunchun.

“I doubt that the Chinese authorities are faithfully carrying out UNSC sanctions on North Korea,” the source said.

“The Quanhe Customs office, near the border between North Korea, China and Russia is lined with gas vehicles headed for North Korea every day,” said the source.

“The name of the [gas] company is written on the sides of the tankers both in Chinese and Korean,” said the source, who believed that this indicated that several small gas companies were working together to get the fuel into North Korea.

“[All the trucks] have either Changchun or Yanbian [Korean Autonomous Prefecture] license plates. It seems like the gas companies here in [China’s] northeast are jointly supplying gas to North Korea,” the source said.

“All the LPG going through the Quanhe checkpoint is sent to the Baekho Trading Company, located in [North Korea’s] Rason Special Economic Zone,” the source said.

“Baekho is a state-run trading company that oversees not only LPG, but a wide range of businesses like gasoline, diesel fuel, raw petroleum, foreign currency earning restaurants, manufacturing, and wholesale. It is under the control of Bureau 39,” said the source.

Bureau 39, officially known as Central Committee Bureau 39 of the Workers' Party of Korea, is a secret organization tasked with maintaining a slush fund for Kim Jong Un, just as it had done for his father, Kim Jong Il, when he was in power.

Bureau 39 was established under the rule of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather.

“Baekho is a powerful trading company that manages every business tasked with raising funds for Kim Jong Un. The items that Baekho Trading Company imports go to institutional businesses and markets nationwide, contributing greatly to raising funds for the Central [Committee of the Workers’] Party,” the source added.

A trader from Hunchun also had doubts that China was effectively enforcing sanctions.

“I thought it was a little strange to see the large amounts of Chinese LPG going through customs into North Korea,” the trader said.

“Sanctions limit how much LPG can be sent to North Korea,” the trader said, implying that shipments have exceeded the limit.

“If all these tanker trucks are going through every day, and each truck can carry 30 tons of gas, [we know] a large volume of LPG is going in,” the trader said.

The sanctions limit the supply of oil products, including LPG gas, to 2 million barrels per year starting in 2018. One 30-ton tanker per day is the equivalent of about 600,000 barrels per year.

The trader also said it would be fairly easy to ship other types of gas, banned by sanctions.

“The tanker truck may say LPG on the side, but who would know if it is actually carrying LNG [liquefied natural gas] which is currently an embargo item?” asked the trader.

“No matter how hard I look, Chinese companies do not appear to be faithfully adhering to U.N. sanctions on North Korea.”

RFA attempted to contact the UN Security Council’s North Korean Sanctions Committee for comment on possible violations of sanctions related to China’s supply of LPG gas to North Korea, but received no response.

Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.





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