North Korea 'violating sanctions and illegally smuggling petroleum products', US claims

Shehab Khan
Mike Pompeo made the comments at a press conference at the United Nations in New York: AFP/Getty

North Korea has been violating its sanctions and illegally importing petroleum products, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.

The US claims that Pyongyang is smuggling refined petroleum through illegal ship-to-ship transfers.

Photographic evidence was provided to the Unied Nations by the US that traced ships to China and Russia.

Mr Pompeo warned that violations could reduce North Korea’s incentive to give up its nuclear weapons. He was speaking at a press conference at the United Nations (UN) in New York.

Diplomats in Russia have asked for additional time to investigate the allegations that products into the country beyond the quota of 500,000 barrels per year allowed under UN sanctions.

The US has asked the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea to send a letter to member states and the public saying that North Korea breached the quota.

It also asked the committee to prevent ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products.

Council members were given the opportunity to object and two diplomats said Russia put "a hold" on the US requests.

One diplomat said Russia asked for six more months, and China supported the "hold."

“Some of our friends have decided they want to go around the rules,” Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN said.

She added that sanctions must remain in place and be enforced until North Korea had taken clear and concrete steps towards denuclearisation.

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because council communications are private.

Agencies contributed to this report