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Russia 'increasing oil exports' to North Korea

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The price of diesel oil and gasoline in North Korea has dropped sharply in the last month, according to reports from within the isolated republic, with Russia apparently stepping up supplies in spite of international efforts to isolate the regime of Kim Jong Un and force Pyongyang to abandon its development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, reported Deutsche Welle (Germany).

According to citizen journalists who report on events inside North Korea for the Osaka-based Asia Press International (API) news agency, fuel prices began to fall in November after several months of fluctuations.

Reports put the price of 1 kilogram of diesel oil at $0.82 (€0.7) now, down 60 percent from early November, while gasoline is being sold for about $2 (€1.70 euros) per kilogram, down 25 percent.
The sharp declines come despite increasingly stiff sanctions imposed on Pyongyang, including measures designed specifically to limit the amount of fuel that North Korea can obtain. Resolution 2375, adopted by the United Nations Security Council shortly after the North's sixth underground nuclear test on September 3, singled out fuel supplies for sanctions, and the US government has since stepped up its calls for China to halt the flow of oil over the border.

Oil over the border
One of API's correspondents reports that "massive amounts" of fuel are coming into the border province of Yanggang from Russia.

"It is difficult to know exactly how much fuel is getting into North Korea, but it does appear that Russia has recently been supplying Pyongyang with fuel," said James Brown, an associate professor of international relations and an expert on Russia-North Korea trade at the Tokyo campus of Temple University.

"It appears that Russia, in particular, but also China, are losing patience with the US," he told DW. "They feel that they have done their part in putting new pressure on North Korea but that Washington should be doing more."

While Beijing and Moscow supported sanctions in the autumn, North Korea went over than two months without launching any missiles, Brown points out. Yet Washington made it clear that it was going ahead with joint US-South Korea air exercises, which began in South Korean air space on Monday.

When the US confirmed that the largest ever joint air exercises — 230 aircraft practicing attacks on North Korea's nuclear facilities and missile bases — would proceed as planned, Pyongyang resumed missile launches.

The intercontinental ballistic missile launched on November 29 is understood to have a range of about 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles), putting anywhere in the United States within range.

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