N. Korea to collapse if China cuts off fuel: expert

January 11, 2016

SEOUL (Yonhap) — North Korea will face a total collapse if China cuts off all oil supplies to the neighboring nation in the wake of Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test last week, a South Korean expert said Monday.

All eyes are on what measures China will take, if any, to punish the North for what it claims was its first successful test of a hydrogen bomb on Wednesday. As international sanctions punishing Pyongyang for its first three nuclear tests appear to have failed in reining in the North’s nuclear program, China is increasingly seen as the only real power with leverage over the Kim Jong-un regime.

The U.N. Security Council has begun work to draw up a new resolution containing “further significant measures.” Current sanction measures under past resolutions range from an embargo on arms trade to interdiction and investigation of freight; financial sanctions blocking money transactions; and sanctions on individuals and entities that violate those restrictions, such as a travel ban or asset freeze.

If China cuts off all fuel supplies, however, there will be total mayhem in North Korea within a week, said Kim Kyoung-sool, a senior researcher at the state-funded Korea Energy Economics Institute.

“That’s because North Korea relies 100 percent on China for its crude oil imports,” he said in a phone interview with Yonhap News Agency. “Almost all of its socioeconomic activities will be paralyzed, from the transportation sector to the military sector; inflation will rise; prices will soar; social anxiety will cause riots; and North Korean society will face a collapse.”

North Korea’s military, the backbone of the Kim regime, will be hit hard in particular, he said, noting that Russian crude supplies have been halted since the early 1990s.

The researcher estimated that North Korea imported 4.24 million barrels of crude from China in 2013 and 3.89 million barrels in 2014.

He expressed skepticism, however, that China would go so far as to impose a total ban on crude exports to the North, citing the two countries’ alliance and the enormous burden of a failed state on its borders.