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Is Russia Smuggling Fuel To North Korea?

Is Russia Smuggling Fuel To North Korea?

This week United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley publicly accused Russia of “cheating” and “actively working to undermine” sanctions imposed by the U.N. on North Korea. In a scheduled meeting between the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, Haley said that the U.S. government is in possession of “evidence of consistent and wide-ranging Russian violations.” Haley’s strong statements brought the friction between the members of the security council into public view and into the headlines on Monday.

Although the U.N. has unanimously agreed since 2016 to uphold sanctions against Pyongyang in an effort to stymie the despotic regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, it is now undeniable that there is discord between some of the council’s most major players. “Russian corruption is like a virus,” Haley declared. “If we’re not careful, the sickness will make its way to the integrity and the effectiveness of the Security Council itself.”

Backing up her accusation of the Russians of being cheaters, Haley also stated that Moscow has been helping North Korea to illegally procure fuel via overseas transfers and had failed to expel a North Korean blacklisted by the council last year. The U.S. and its allies have recently increased their efforts to track and document sanctions violations and, according to Haley, Washington officials have collected proof of 148 cases just this year of oil tankers delivering fuel to North Korea, in direct violation of U.N. sanctions. Haley did not clarify how many of these 148 transfers had Russian influence but did specifically mention that in April a Russian ship named the Patriot had been caught on film transferring refined petroleum to a North Korean vessel.

Ambassador Haley’s heated comments were spurred by a dispute over an independent U.N. report on sanctions violations. The original report, according to statements from both Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, specifically cited sanction breaches perpetrated by Russia, which the Russian government then pushed to expunge from the final draft of the report. “Every time the Security Council overlooks sanctions violations, every time we allow the Russians to bury evidence of violations, we remove incentives for Pyongyang to end its nuclear program,” Haley said. The allegation of a cover-up was promptly denied by Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.