The United States asked the UN Security Council on Thursday to order an immediate halt to all deliveries of refined oil products to North Korea after accusing Pyongyang of violating sanctions with illegal imports of fuel, according to documents seen by AFP.
A confidential US report sent to a UN sanctions committee estimated that at least 759,793 barrels of oil products had been delivered to North Korea between January 1 and May 30, well above the annual quota set in a UN resolution at 500,000 barrels.
The illegal supplies were provided through ship-to-ship transfers at sea using North Korean tankers that have delivered their cargo at least 89 times, according to the report.
The United States requested that the UN committee declare that North Korea had violated the UN-approved quota and "order an immediate halt to all transfers of refined petroleum products" to North Korea.
The committee has until next Thursday to consider the request, which could be blocked by China and Russia. The two countries have resisted toughening sanctions on North Korea.
The US request came just days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang to press for concrete steps by Kim Jong Un's regime to scrap its nuclear and ballistic programs.
While Pompeo said those talks were making progress, North Korea angrily accused Washington of making "gangster-like" demands for quick denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
In Washington, President Donald Trump released a letter from Kim Jong Un, in which the North Korean leader voices confidence in efforts to end their standoff but called on his US counterpart to take "practical actions" to build trust.
The letter was dated July 6 - the day that Pompeo landed in Pyongyang.
- Oil transfers must stop -
The United States has insisted that tough economic sanctions will remain in place until Pyongyang scraps its military programs and that the dismantling is independently confirmed.
Under the latest sanctions resolution adopted in December, crude oil supplies to North Korea were capped at four million barrels per year and a ceiling of 500,000 barrels of refined oil products per year was set.
But UN experts monitoring the sanctions have reported that North Korea was circumventing sanctions with the illegal imports of oil products that are vital for the country's ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
The US intelligence report sent to the UN sanctions committee estimated that ship-to-ship transfers may have provided North Korea with as much as 1,367,628 barrels of refined products.
In its report, the United States pointed the finger at China and Russia for continuing to sell refined petroleum products to North Korea.
"These sales and any other transfer must immediately stop since the United States believes the DPRK has breached the ... refined petroleum products quota for 2018," it said.
The United States has released photographs of eight instances in which North Korean tankers were caught at sea receiving fuel cargo.
According to the US information, a Russian-flagged tanker identified as Patriot transferred fuel to a tanker on April 10 which then arrived at North Korea's Nampo port five days later.
The sanctions committee chaired by the Netherlands set a deadline of 12:00 pm (1600 GMT) Thursday July 19 for countries to raise objections. If no objections are raised, the US request will be approved.