A new report says that South Korea has been shipping petroleum to North Korea in potential violation of international sanctions.
Here's what we know
According to NK News, which monitors the region, South Korea sent 342.9 metric tons of petroleum products to North Korea last year. The United Nations allows a cumulative 73,087 tons to be shipped to North Korea from all its members, but the shipments from South Korea were not reported to the United Nations or included in this total.
According to Reuters, only Russia and China submitted reports indicating the amount of petroleum they had shipped to North Korea in 2018.
This latest report from NK News noted that:
While the amounts fell well short of North Korea's allowed import cap of 500,000 barrels of refined petroleum products each year – representing just 0.51% of that total allowance – South Korea failed to report details about the transfers or recipients in the manner required by UN rules.
The petroleum products were reportedly used to help negotiate for family reunions between North and South Koreans, which took place in 2018. Many families were were separated during the Korean War, which began in 1950, remain stranded on opposite sides of the heavily guarded border.
The government of South Korea told Reuters on Wednesday that it was "complying with the framework of sanctions on North Korea."
South Korea's foreign ministry insisted "[w]e only used petroleum products to carry out joint inter-Korean projects, and our view is that this does not harm the purpose of sanctions on North Korea."
In October, South Korea's foreign minister had indicated that his nation's government was considering lifting some of its sanctions on North Korea. However, after public backlash to those comments from President Donald Trump, the South Korean government backtracked.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon even came forward and said that the government had never seriously considered lifting sanctions.