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International relations

North Korea accused of breaching UN oil import limits

More than 40 countries including US and Japan report illicit shipments

Supreme leader Kim Jong Un visits a chicken farm in this undated photo: More than 40 countries say the North has violated U.N. sanctions.   © Reuters

NEW YORK (Kyodo) -- More than 40 countries, including the United States and Japan, on Friday reported to a U.N. committee that North Korea has breached sanctions by exceeding a cap on refined petroleum products through illicit transfers at sea.

North Korea, sanctioned for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, is believed to have smuggled over 1.6 million barrels during the five months from January -- far larger than the annual cap of 500,000 barrels set by a 2017 U.N. resolution -- through 56 illicit shipments, according to a document submitted to a U.N. Security Council sanctions committee on North Korea and UNSC sources.

The sources also said North Korean vessels regularly conduct illicit ship-to-ship transfers at sea as Pyongyang's primary means of importing refined petroleum.

The document, submitted by a total of 43 countries, urged the sanctions committee to inform member states that they must "immediately cease" selling, supplying or transferring the products to the country "for the remainder of the year."

They also called for the need to "exercise enhanced vigilance" regarding North Korea's attempt to procure more of the products and to prevent illicit ship-to-ship transfers of such goods to vessels owned or working in cooperation with North Korea.

Similar requests have been made to the sanctions committee in 2018 and 2019, but no conclusion was reached as China and Russia disputed the move.

Under the 2017 U.N. resolution, the supply, sale or transfer to North Korea of all refined petroleum products has been limited to up to 500,000 barrels per year.

Member states have been required to report to the committee every 30 days on the amount they supply to North Korea. China and Russia legally supplied more than 100,000 barrels from January to May this year.

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