Russia revives oil exports to North Korea as US sounds alarm on more arms sales for Ukraine war

  • Russia has revived its oil trade with long-time ally North Korea as the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine drags on.
  • Russia has exported 67,000 barrels of oil to North Korea since December, a UN report said.
  • North Korea has been accused of sending Russia weapons for its war in Ukraine.

Russia has revived its oil trade with long-time ally North Korea as the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine drags on.

Shipments of refined petroleum products were halted in October 2020, but a United Nations report found that they restarted in December and have continued this year, totaling about 67,000 barrels, according to Bloomberg.

The report comes amid other signs that the two heavily sanctioned regimes are deepening their cooperation. 

US officials have suspected Pyongyang of supplying weapons to Russia, and on Monday the State Department said the US is concerned North Korea is planning to send more weapons. 

A State Department spokesperson told Reuters that the US had confirmed North Korea delivered weapons, including rockets and missiles, to the Russia’s Wagner mercenary group in November.

In March, the US sanctioned a Slovakian man who was suspected to trying to sell North Korean weapons and munitions to Russia for its war on Ukraine.

On Monday, North Korean Leader Kim Jung Un reiterated support for Moscow and indicated he would be “holding hands firmly with the Russian president,” Vladimir Putin.

Pyongyang has dismissed allegations of providing weapons to Russia, but North Korea’s stockpile, which includes 21,600 Soviet-era artillery pieces, is compatible. By selling to Russia, it would also provide the country with needed revenue, Bloomberg said.

The UN has banned North Korea from selling arms, though it has reportedly provided weapons to Iran, Syria, and Uganda. UN sanctions also limit its oil imports to 500,000 barrels a year, something Pyongyang has found ways around as well. 

Meanwhile, sanctions are taking a toll on Russian energy profits — last month’s oil and gas revenue missed expectations by 30.6 billion rubles. In the face of this, the country has begun selling foreign currency from its wealth fund.