"Enhanced Disruption Task Force" targets Pyongyang


On March 26, the United States hosted the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) bilateral Enhanced Disruption Task Force (EDTF), which is being established to counter illicit efforts by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to circumvent sanctions concerning the procurement of refined petroleum.  

Led by U.S. Deputy Special Representative for the DPRK Lyn Debevoise and ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director-General for North Korean Nuclear Affairs Lee Jun-il, the two sides discussed how DPRK imports of refined petroleum in excess of the UN-mandated cap violate UN Security Council resolutions and support the DPRK’s unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs.  

The United States and ROK underscored the need for close collaboration to disrupt the DPRK’s ability to illicitly procure excess petroleum, including petroleum from Russia, as this activity directly contributes to the DPRK’s military readiness and the development of its weapons programs.

U.N. sanctions limited the DPRK to importing 4 million barrels of crude oil and 500,000 barrels of refined oil per year in an effort to constrain the country’s nuclear and missile programs.

The ROK foreign ministry cited an assessment in the latest report by the U.N. Panel of Experts that found North Korea likely smuggled up to 1.5 million barrels of refined petroleum into the country between Jan.-Sept. 2023, triple the annual oil cap.

The launch of the task force came as the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) assessed on Tuesday that a small flotilla of North Korean oil tankers — including two under U.N. sanctions — have likely been shuttling oil products between Port Vostochny in Russia’s Far East and the DPRK port of Chongjin since early March.

Through EDTF, the United States and ROK are pursuing a wide range of joint actions to disrupt DPRK refined oil procurement networks, including by exposing DPRK sanctions evasion activities, reviewing options for autonomous sanctions designations, and engaging private sector and third-party actors throughout the region who facilitate – either knowingly or unwittingly – the DPRK’s oil procurement networks.  

The EDTF also discussed future areas of focus, including disrupting the DPRK’s illicit overseas coal sales.


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