China halts oil product exports to North Korea in November as sanctions bite

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 26, 2017 2:27 AM

By Ryan Woo and Muyu Xu

BEIJING (Reuters) - China exported no oil products to North Korea in November, Chinese customs data showed, apparently going above and beyond sanctions imposed earlier this year by the United Nations in a bid to limit petroleum shipments to the isolated country.

Tension has flared this year over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, pursued in defiance of years of U.N. resolutions. Last week, the U.N. Security Council imposed new caps on trade with North Korea, including limiting oil product shipments to just 500,000 barrels a year.

Beijing also imported no iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea in November, the second full month of the latest trade sanctions imposed by U.N.

China, the main source of North Korea's fuel, did not export any gasoline, jet fuel, diesel or fuel oil to its isolated neighbor last month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday.

Beijing's move to turn off the taps completely is rare. In March 2003, China suspended oil supplies to North Korea for three days after Pyongyang fired a missile into waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

Chinese exports of corn to North Korean in November also slumped, down 82 percent from a year earlier to 100 tonnes, the lowest since January. Exports of rice plunged 64 percent to 672 tonnes, the lowest since March.

Trade between North Korea and China has slowed through the year, particularly after China banned coal purchases in February. In November, China's trade with North Korea totaled $388 million, one of the lowest monthly volumes this year.

China has renewed its call on all countries to make constructive efforts to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula, urging the use of peaceful means to resolve issues.

But tension flared again after North Korea on Nov. 29 said it had successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile test that put the U.S. mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile Chinese exports of liquefied petroleum gas to North Korea, often used for cooking, rose 58 percent in November from a year earlier to 99 tonnes. Exports of ethanol, which can be turned into a biofuel, gained 82 percent to 3,428 cubic meters.

(Reporting by Muyu Xu and Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Meng Meng and Hallie Gu; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)