Russia is violating UN limits on petroleum shipments to North Korea, the White House says

WASHINGTON — Russia is shipping refined crude oil to North Korea at levels exceeding UN Security Council limits, the White House said Thursday, signaling it will impose new sanctions on those involved in facilitating the transfers.

The United Nations had set an annual global ceiling of 500,000 barrels on refined petroleum products to North Korea as part of its years-long effort to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Russia shipped more than 165,000 barrels of refined petroleum to North Korea in March alone. With its proximity to Russian and North Korean trading ports, Russia could maintain these shipments indefinitely, he said.

The revelation came the day after a UN panel of experts overseeing the enforcement of sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear weapons and missile programs was disbanded. Russia, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, had blocked the panel’s renewal.

The Biden administration has released and published intelligence showing that Russia has become increasingly dependent on North Korea, as well as Iran, for weapons for its war in Ukraine.

“Russia’s actions are unprecedented for a member of the P5 to break a long-standing, consistent effort by the United Nations Security Council to support denuclearization and non-proliferation efforts,” Kirby said, referring to the five permanent members of the Security Council. “The United States will continue to impose sanctions against anyone working to facilitate the transfer of weapons and refined petroleum between Russia and North Korea.

Earlier this year, the White House said North Korea had sent Russia ballistic missiles that had been used in Ukraine. The White House said in October that North Korea had delivered more than a thousand containers of military equipment and ammunition to Russia.

U.S. intelligence officials believe that in return for its arms support, North Korea wants Russia to supply the country with aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, armored vehicles, ballistic missile production equipment and other advanced technologies.

Russia’s U-turn on UN oversight reflects Moscow’s growing hostility toward the United States and its Western allies since the start of the war in Ukraine. The tension has made it difficult to reach consensus, even on issues that have long been agreed upon.

Kirby said the U.S. would work with Australia, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Britain on expected follow-up sanctions on the oil shipments.