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US, South Korea set up task force to block North Korea oil shipments

SEOUL — The United States and South Korea this week launched a new task force aimed at preventing North Korea from procuring illicit oil, as deadlock at the United Nations Security Council casts doubts over the future of international sanctions.

The first meeting of the Enhanced Disruption Task Force (EDTF) was held in Washington on Tuesday (March 26).

The meeting involved more than 30 officials from ministries and agencies in charge of diplomacy, intelligence, sanctions, and maritime interdiction, South Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement.

The two sides expressed concern over the possibility of Russia providing refined oil to North Korea, and discussed ways to suspend illegal co-operation between Moscow and Pyongyang, the statement added.

"Oil is an essential resource for North Korea's nuclear and missile development and military posture," the statement said.

Under UNSC restrictions imposed over North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programmes, Pyongyang is limited to importing 4 million barrels of crude and 500,000 barrels of refined products a year.

There is a strong possibility Russia will veto a UN resolution calling for continuation of the mandate for the expert panel that monitors sanctions on North Korea, a UN diplomat told Reuters last week.

A UN expert panel that monitors implementation of sanctions said this month that North Korean-flagged tankers may have delivered more than 1.5 million barrels of refined oil products between Jan 1 and Sept 15 last year

The United States and South Korea say North Korea has supplied Russia with weapons for use in Ukraine. Russia and North Korea have denied this even as they pledged to strengthen military co-operation.

Commercial satellite imagery show North Korean