Will Oil Sanctions Against North Korea be Effective?
By admin September 21, 2017

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After Kim Jong Un disregarded deterrence measures taken by Japan, the United States, and South Korea, the United Nations passed a new round of sanctions last week which targeted North Korean textile exports and capped oil imports, falling short of a full oil embargo advocated by the Trump administration. The United States has believed for some time that oil sanctions are one of the remaining diplomatic strategies to slow North Korea’s progress into a nuclear state.

While advocates argue a strict oil embargo could lead to the country suffering an economic collapse and a subsequent regime change, there is a significant debate among experts to whether these measures will be effective in even slowing North Korea’s nuclear development, let alone collapse the government.

North Korea currently imports 90 percent of its crude oil from China through the Dandong-Sinuiju pipeline, which originates in the Daqing oil field, located in the Heilongjiang province, and then travels from the border city of Dandong to the North Korean city of Sinuiju. The crude is then processed at North Korea’s only refinery – the Ponghwa Chemical Factory. This pipeline was not included among the sanctions passed last week, allowing an unlimited amount of crude oil to flow from China to North Korea, which significantly weakened the rest of the passed resolution. China argued that the pipeline could not be shut down due to the high levels of wax found in Daqing oil that could collect in the pipe if it was

China argued that the pipeline could not be shut down due to the high levels of wax found in Daqing oil that could collect in the pipe if it was shutdown, making it difficult to ever make it operational again. A bigger picture argued by experts is that keeping this pipeline gives North Korea a remaining lifeline to persuade them to attend the negotiating table.

However, even in the unlikely scenario, an oil embargo is implemented by the United Nations, North Korea has built a tolerance against limited oil imports. From 1991 to 2016, North Korean oil consumption decreased from 76,000 to 15,000 barrels while its total population increased by 5 million people. This period also saw the greatest progress in their missile program and nuclear development, as Kim Jong Un has been more successful under harsher sanctions. In a scenario where the North’s oil is

In a scenario where the North’s oil is cut off, it is likely that the North Korean government would focus on becoming completely self-sufficient, a process they have been working on for awhile by adapting oil engines to burn wood and building coal gasification plants that could liquefy the fossil fuel. The intelligence community also believes the North Koreans have acquired the infrastructure needed to make their rocket fuel of choice, UDMH, or unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, domestically, which has never been targeted by sanctions.

Even if the flow of vital resources to North Korea can be reduced or even cut off, we must remind ourselves of the seemingly unbendable fortitude Kim Jong Un and the North Korean people have shown after twenty years of sanctions. If a reduction in oil imports will not bring them to the negotiating table, we must consider all remaining diplomatic options to prevent a military option that could risk millions of lives.

Further reading: 

It supplies 90 per cent of oil to North Korea … so why is China’s pipeline excluded from UN sanctions?

A Potent Fuel Flows to North Korea. It May Be Too Late to Halt It.

Trump, Moon vow ‘stronger pressure’ against N. Korea

North Korea: An oil embargo probably wouldn’t work

Sorry, an Oil Embargo Won’t Lead to North Korea’s Capitulation

North Korea defiant over U.N. sanctions as Trump says tougher steps needed

Thanks for sharing !

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