Daily NK has confirmed that China is currently supplying oil to North Korea through a pipeline running between the two. Though there have been cases where Beijing has suspended such shipments in
response to North Korean intransigence, particularly over nuclear issues, but this has not happened recently.
On April 10th, Daily NK visited an oil storage and pipeline
facility in Dandong. There, our team interviewed Chinese
Ministry of Public Security officials guarding the
facility, which is owned by a subsidiary of China National Petroleum
Corporation, or CNPC.
When asked about oil assistance to North Korea, one
of the officers acknowledged, “We are continuously supplying oil (to North
Korea),” but “cannot say how much we send each month or how much remains as of
deliveries to be transferred to North Korea are received at this facility from a
larger nearby facility, Basan, and then are shipped to a partner storage
facility at Baekma in Pihyun Couunty, North Pyongan Province. The pipeline is 11km long.
to sources, these deliveries are not recorded in Chinese customs
data, or in foreign trade statistics. The oil from the pipeline is rather characterized as de facto aid, either in the form of low interest loans or free of charge.
This is why, on
April 24th, Korean agency KOTRA released a figure of ‘zero’ for
oil exports from China to North Korea for the first quarter of 2014, basing it on Chinese customs data. The
data says zero for commercial transfers; however, supplies in the form of aid
and assistance may not have stopped at all.
this regard, a diplomatic source said, “China has the ability to stop the oil
supplies whenever they want, but they’ve never done so for a long period of
time.” He went on, “Above all, China places as much importance on security as North
Korea places on nuclearization, and it doesn’t want to see disorder in the North
Korean regime. This explains why China keeps providing this assistance.”
Chinese trade statistics show that 520,000 tons of
oil was exported to North Korea every year from 2009 to 2012. Mostly small North
Korean tankers shipped this oil.
* This article was made possible by support from the Korea Press Foundation.