As North Korea continues to test its nuclear missiles, despite worldwide warnings not to do so, the United Nations has cracked down increasingly harsh sanctions on the small east-Asian nation. Oil is among the products countries are not allowed to trade with North Korea under these sanctions, which is very bad news for Kim Jong Un, who counts on imported fuel to keep the country (and its nuclear program) functioning. However, it looks like they recently received a helping hand from several Russian tankers who violated the U.N. sanctions to supply North Korea with oil:
Russian vessels have made ship-to-ship transfers of petrochemicals to North Korean vessels on several occasions this year in breach of sanctions.
There is no evidence that this is backed by the Russian state but these Russian vessels are giving a lifeline to the North Koreans.
Using "naval intelligence and satellite imagery," anonymous sources were able to determine that after the latest round of sanctions, North Korean ships have been meeting with Russian vessels on open water and transferring fuel:
The vessels are smuggling Russian fuel from Russian Far Eastern ports to North Korea.
One such vessel, the Russian Vityaz, left Slavyanka on October 15th, carrying 1,600 tons of oil. It was supposedly heading towards a set of Japanese fishing vessels but, several days into its voyage, it switched off its transponder (which helps give a precise location for the ship). According to the anonymous European sources, the Vityaz then conducted a ship-to-ship transfer of oil with the North Korean Sam Ma 2. The Sam Ma 2's transponder was also turned off. Reuters could not independently verify anything aside from the fact that both ships had switched off their location devices.
Yaroslav Guk, deputy director of the company which owns the Vityaz, denies any such trades:
Absolutely no, this is very dangerous. It would be complete madness.
This all comes hot on the heels of President Trump accusing China of being caught selling oil to North Korea as well.
Caught RED HANDED - very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2017
Trump's friend in Russia delivered some oil to North Korea.— CardFan (@hedgeswoman) December 31, 2017