China National Petroleum Corp has suspended sales of fuel to North Korea over concerns the state-owned oil company won’t get paid, as pressure mounts on Pyongyang to rein in its nuclear and missile programmes, three sources told Reuters.
It’s unclear how long the suspension will last. A prolonged cut would threaten critical supplies of fuel and force North Korea to find alternatives to its main supplier of diesel and gasoline, as scrutiny of China’s close commercial ties with its increasingly isolated neighbour intensifies.
CNPC and the Ministry of Commerce did not respond to requests for comment. China’s Foreign Ministry declined immediate comment. North Korea’s embassy in Beijing declined to comment.
A source with direct knowledge of the matter said CNPC decided to put fuel sales on hold “over the last month or two” and described it as a “commercial decision”.
“It’s no longer worth the risks,” said the source. Chinese and international banks are stepping up compliance checks on companies dealing with countries on the U.S. sanctions list, such as North Korea, he said.
The North Korean agents who mostly buy the diesel and gasoline have been unable recently to pay for the supplies — CNPC normally requires upfront payments, the source said.
Reuters was unable to determine if the agents have started facing credit problems with Chinese and international banks worried about sanctions compliance issues.
Two other sources briefed about CNPC’s decision confirmed the suspension of diesel sales, but did not know directly about the gasoline move. The three people declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter and are not authorised to speak to the media…