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Hmm: China’s national oil firm cuts off North Korea


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hmm-chinas-national-oil-firm-cuts-off-north-korea

Ed Morrissey

June 28, 2017

 

Has North Korea run out of credit with China, or has Beijing finally run out of patience with Pyongyang? China’s state-run petroleum operation has cut off fuel sales to rogue nation, Reuters reports, ostensibly due to a lack of payment. However, it’s no secret that the Trump administration has put a lot of pressure on Beijing to get tougher with the Kim regime, and a fuel cutoff will hit Kim Jong-un where he’s most vulnerable:

 

Quote

China National Petroleum Corp has suspended sales of fuel to North Korea over concerns the state-owned oil company won’t get paid, as pressure mounts on Pyongyang to rein in its nuclear and missile programmes, three sources told Reuters.

It’s unclear how long the suspension will last. A prolonged cut would threaten critical supplies of fuel and force North Korea to find alternatives to its main supplier of diesel and gasoline, as scrutiny of China’s close commercial ties with its increasingly isolated neighbour intensifies.

 

North Korea needs the fuel not just for its farmers and shipping, but also for its military. That presents a particularly difficult problem for Pyongyang’s leaders, who already operate in a crisis-shortage environment. Kim can’t afford to cut back on military supplies, not with all of the saber rattling taking place at the moment, which means he’ll have to starve the rest of the country of fuel resources, which will hamper food production and distribution even further. It will ratchet up internal tension, and it might get worse if military needs can’t be satisfied.

 

(Snip)

 

Aizhu’s sources say that this was a “commercial decision,” but nothing’s that simple in China. Beijing had already cut off coal imports from North Korea, depriving Kim of income that could have been used to pay for the fuel. It looks like a squeeze, one that may be picking up in intensity, and one that sends a direct message to North Korea’s military leaders, who will understand only too well what a fuel embargo will do to their readiness posture. It won’t take much more for the situation to reach critical mass on the Korean peninsula.

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