Washington —
North Korea continues to evade international sanctions on petroleum exports, mainly through illegal ship-to-ship transfers, thus undermining denuclearization efforts, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.

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“When sanctions are not enforced, the prospects for the successful denuclearization are diminished,” Pompeo said at the United Nations in New York. “Right now, North Korea is illegally smuggling petroleum products into the country at a level that far exceeds the quotas established by the United Nations.”

Pompeo said there were at least 89 illegal ship-to-ship transfers through May of this year and said they continue to occur. The US claims North Korea may have illegally imported nearly 1.4 million barrels of refined petroleum in 2018, about three times the amount allowed under UN sanctions.

“Members of the UN Security Council, and by extension all UN member-states, have unanimously agreed to fully enforce sanctions on North Korea, and we expect them to continue to honor those commitments,” Pompeo said, urging other countries to “step up” enforcement of the petroleum sector sanctions on North Korea.

The US on Thursday put forward a proposal to halt all refined petroleum shipments to North Korea, but it was blocked by China and Russia, said Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN.

“They claim they need more information,” Haley said Friday. “We don’t need any more information. The sanctions committee has what it needs. We all know it’s going forward.”

Earlier this year, the US unveiled sanctions aimed at the illegal trade of petroleum products, coal and other goods with North Korea. In February, President Donald Trump said the sanctions were the “heaviest” ever imposed on a country. The sanctions were aimed at preventing North Korea and others from evading international prohibitions on trade through various methods, including ship-to-ship transfers outside of ports.

Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last month in Singapore.

North Korea operates a fleet of 24 tankers capable of engaging in ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products and other banned goods, according to the US Treasury Department.

The UN Security Council last September agreed to a ban on all condensate and natural gas liquids supplied to North Korea and limiting exports of refined products to a total of 500,000 barrels from October 1 to December 31, 2017 and to 2 million barrels for all of 2018. The resolution also barred UN members from exporting more crude to North Korea than they exported over the previous 12 months.

–Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

–Edited by Kevin Saville, kevin.saville@spglobal.com

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