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Thread: Russia undercuts NK sanctions

  1. #1
    The Un-Holy One The Man's Avatar
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    Russia undercuts NK sanctions

    Russian smugglers are scurrying to the aid of North Korea with shipments of petroleum and other vital supplies that could help that country weather harsh new economic sanctions, U.S. officials say in an assessment that casts further doubt on whether financial measures alone can force dictator Kim Jong Un to abandon his nuclear weapons program.

    The spike in Russian exports is occurring as China — by far North Korea's biggest trading partner — is beginning to dramatically ratchet up the economic pressure on its troublesome neighbor in the face of provocative behavior such as last week's test of a powerful nuclear bomb.

    Official documents and interviews point to a rise in tanker traffic this spring between North Korean ports and Vladivostok, the far-eastern Russian city near the small land border shared by the two countries. With international trade with North Korea increasingly constrained by U.N. sanctions, Russian entrepreneurs are seizing opportunities to make a quick profit, setting up a maze of front companies to conceal *transactions and launder payments, according to U.S. law enforcement officials who monitor sanction-busting activity.

    Such trade could provide a lifeline to North Korea at a time when the United States is seeking to deepen Kim's economic and political isolation in response to recent nuclear and missiles tests. Trump administration officials were hoping that new trade restrictions by China — including a temporary ban on gasoline and diesel exports imposed this spring by a state-owned Chinese petroleum company — could finally drive Kim to negotiate an agreement to halt work on nuclear weapons and long-range delivery systems.

    The U.N. Security Council late Monday approved a package of new economic sanctions that included a cap on oil imports to North Korea, effectively slashing its fuel supply by 30 percent, diplomats said. A U.S. proposal for a total oil embargo was dropped in exchange for Russian and Chinese support for the measure.

    "As the Chinese cut off oil and gas, we're seeing them turn to Russia," said a senior official with detailed knowledge of smuggling operations. The official, one of several current and former U.S. officials interviewed about the trend, insisted on anonymity in describing analyses based on intelligence and confidential informants.

    "Whenever they are cut off from their primary supplier, they just try to get it from somewhere else," the official said.

    The increase in trade with Russia was a primary reason for a series of legal measures announced last month by Justice and Treasury officials targeting Russian nationals accused of helping North Korea evade sanctions. Court documents filed in support of the measures describe a web of alleged front companies established by Russian citizens for the specific purpose of concealing business arrangements with Pyongyang.

    While Russian companies have engaged in such illicit trade with North Korea in the past, U.S. officials and experts on North Korea observed a sharp rise beginning last spring, coinciding with new U.N. sanctions and the ban on fuel shipments in May by the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. The smuggled goods mostly are diesel and other fuels, which are vital to North Korea's economy and can't be produced indigenously. In the past, U.S. agencies also have tracked shipments of Russian industrial equipment and ores as well as luxury goods.

    Traffic between Vladivostok and the port of Rajin in North Korea has become so heavy that local officials this year launched a dedicated ferry line between the two cities. The service was temporarily suspended last week because of a financial dispute.

    China, with its large shared border and traditionally close ties with Pyongyang, remains North Korea's most important trading partner, accounting for more than 90 percent of the country's foreign commerce. Thus, Beijing's cooperation is key to any sanctions regime that seeks to force Kim to alter his behavior, current and former U.S. officials say.

    Still, Russia, with its massive petroleum reserves and proven willingness to partner with un*savory regimes, could provide just enough of a boost to keep North Korea's economy moving, allowing it to again resist international pressure to give up its strategic weapons, the officials said.

    "Russia is now a player in this realm," said Anthony Ruggiero, a former Treasury Department official who is now a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank. "The Chinese may be fed up with North Korea and willing to do more to increase the pressure. But it's not clear that the Russians are willing to go along with that."

    The reports of Russian oil smuggling come as Moscow continues to criticize international efforts to impose more trade restrictions on North Korea. Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a joint news conference Wednesday with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, pointedly refused to support new restrictions on fuel supplies for the North.

    "We should not act out of emotions and push North Korea to a dead end," Putin said, according to South Korean media accounts of the news conference.

    Rare insight into exactly how Russian firms conduct business with Kim's isolated regime can be gleaned from the court papers filed last month to support new sanctions against Russian nationals accused of supplying diesel and other fuels to North Korea. The papers describe in detail how one company, Velmur, was set up by Russian operatives in Singapore to allegedly help North Korea purchase millions of dollars' worth of fuel while keeping details of the transactions opaque.

    Velmur was registered in Singapore in 2014 as a real estate management company. Yet its chief function appears to be "facilitating the laundering of funds for North Korea financial facilitators and sanctioned entities," according to a Justice Department complaint filed on Aug. 22. The company has no known headquarters, office space or even a Web address, but rather "bears the hallmarks of a front company," the complaint states.

    According to the documents, Velmur worked with other Russian partners to obtain contracts this year to purchase nearly $7 million worth of diesel fuel from a Russian supplier known as IPC between February and May. In each case, North Korean operatives wired the payments to Velmur in hard currency — U.S. dollars — and Velmur in turn used the money to pay IPC for diesel tanker shipments departing the port of Vladivostok, the documents show.

    "The investigation has concluded that North Korea was the destination" of the diesel transshipments, the Justice Department records state. "As such, it appears that Velmur, while registered as a real estate management company, is in fact a North Korean financial facilitator."
    More: How Russia quietly undercuts sanctions intended to stop North Korea’s nuclear program

    The ferry, currently suspended as the operator (Russian company) and the port of Vladivostok work out a disagreement over docking fees

    Ferry service between Russia and North Korea suspended | Asia Times

    A separate issue are the tens of thousands on North Koreans currently living and working in Russia, who fear they will be deported because of the sanctions: N. Korean workers in Russia fear sanctions will send them home - CNN

  2. #2
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    Trump could perhaps get Putin's attention, with the Ukraine.

    Either by doing LESS to support the Ukrainian government, or MORE.

    Personally, I think it may be time for the US to start helping our Non-Nuclear Allies, as they move forward with their own nuclear ambitions.

    Perhaps a Nuclear Taiwan, and a Nuclear Ukraine, might change some attitudes.

    But, still, that is not required.

    Instead, both Russia and China have given the United States every reason needed to start installing advanced ABM and Early detection systems......

    (And, we should consider moving the Ramstein Air field in Germany, to somewhere in Poland.......)
    Thanks from The Man

  3. #3
    Inside Your Heads syrenn's Avatar
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    and i am sure the chinese are right there with the russians.
    Thanks from The Man

  4. #4
    The Un-Holy One The Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rorschach View Post
    Trump could perhaps get Putin's attention, with the Ukraine.

    Either by doing LESS to support the Ukrainian government, or MORE.

    Personally, I think it may be time for the US to start helping our Non-Nuclear Allies, as they move forward with their own nuclear ambitions.

    Perhaps a Nuclear Taiwan, and a Nuclear Ukraine, might change some attitudes.

    But, still, that is not required.

    Instead, both Russia and China have given the United States every reason needed to start installing advanced ABM and Early detection systems......

    (And, we should consider moving the Ramstein Air field in Germany, to somewhere in Poland.......)
    I wish all the world leaders would work to REDUCE tensions, not RATCHET them UP even more...
    Thanks from One

  5. #5
    The Un-Holy One The Man's Avatar
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    Btw, Germany wants to roll back the sanctions on Russia, if the ceasefire in Donbass holds: Russia sanctions should be phased out if Ukraine ceasefire holds: Germany's Gabriel

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Man View Post
    I wish all the world leaders would work to REDUCE tensions, not RATCHET them UP even more...
    That would be nice, but, as long as Russia and China feel the need to feed their attack puppies, Iran and North Korea.

    (Although....I think China's patience is starting to wane. And, IF that mountain, where the NKoreans have been doing their nuclear testing collapses, and starts spewing radiation over the border......)

    The problem, is that everyone is still playing Geo-Political Chess.

    If America does not make a move, then, we can't complain when we are Checked on the world stage.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Man View Post
    Btw, Germany wants to roll back the sanctions on Russia, if the ceasefire in Donbass holds: Russia sanctions should be phased out if Ukraine ceasefire holds: Germany's Gabriel
    Probably should.

    But, can you imagine what the freaking Ukranians are thinking: LOL, the break their ties to Russia, at the behest of Western Europeans, even signing a TREATY with the United States, that we would come to their aid, if they are attacked, and, look what they got out of that deal: Lost the Crimea, and the Eastern part of their nation.

    NATO still gives them a weak "atta boy," and, NOTHING else.

    (There is a REASON why nations do not trust alliances with the West. And, while I am a Patriotic American, I think any one who trusts my nation, to stick by our treaties and agreements...is a fucking idiot. America has a long history of either breaking, or, simply ignoring treaties and agreements.......)

    The people of the Ukraine would have been better served, sticking with the former master they KNOW, rather than trusting erstwhile allies of the West......

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