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US, South Korea launch task force to combat illegal shipment of oil to North Korea

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk March 27, 2024 9:17 AM 2 min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in Russia on Sept. 13, 2023. Photo for illustrative purposes. (Vladimir Smirnov / Pool / AFP)
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The U.S. and South Korea held their first joint meeting on March 26 of a new task force aimed at combatting the illegal import of oil to North Korea, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The two countries also said they were increasingly concerned that Russia has been providing refined oil to North Korea.

The warning followed similar reporting by the Financial Times (FT) the previous day. Citing satellite imagery, FT wrote that Russia has likely been defying U.N. sanctions by supplying North Korea with oil, likely in exchange for weapons.

According to the statement by South Korea's Foreign Ministry, the newly created "Enhanced Disruption Task Force" was "launched to more effectively block key resources and funding sources needed for North Korea's nuclear and missile development."

Pyongyang is subject to a strict limit on oil transfers imposed by the U.N. Security Council in 2017 after a series of nuclear weapons tests. According to the cap, North Korea can import no more than 500,000 barrels of refined oil per year.

Despite these measures, the Foreign Ministry, citing a U.N. report released earlier in March, estimated that North Korea was still able to import more than 1.5 billion barrels of refined oil in the first nine months of 2023. It is unclear what percentage of these imports may have come from Russia.

North Korea has been shaping to be Russia's leading weapons supplier, reportedly providing Moscow with extensive military packages, including ballistic missiles and over 3 million artillery shells.

There have been at least 10 cases of Russia using North Korean missiles to strike Ukraine, said Jung Pak, a U.S. State Department official, in an interview with Voice of America (VoA) on March 18.

One of the first cases of Russia using North Korean ballistic missiles was recorded in December 2023 during an attack on Zaporizhzhia, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) wrote.

Later on, Russia's use of North Korean missiles was officially confirmed in the attack on Kharkiv on Jan. 2.

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