As the United States and its allies have been trying to prevent North Korea from taking catastrophic actions, recent photos showed that at least one country has violated sanctions against the reclusive regime and aided its leaders in a massive way.

U.S. spy satellites reportedly captured the images, which showed Chinese ships selling oil to North Korean boats in the West Sea roughly 30 times since October, the South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo reported, citing South Korean government sources.

The transfers were illegal, considering that, in September, the United Nations Security Council barred ship-to-ship trade with North Korea and placed restrictions on crude oil imports to the country due to dictator Kim Jong Un’s increasingly concerning nuclear weapons program.

In an effort to further hinder the country’s transportation networks, the U.S. imposed additional sanctions in November against North Korea’s Maritime Administration, its transport ministry, six shipping and trading companies, and 20 vessels, according to Fox News.

One of the ships identified in the satellite images — Rye Song Gang 1 — was included in those sanctions as a vessel belonging to Korea Kumbyol Trading Company that was suspected of transferring oil to evade sanctions.

China has been one of North Korea’s primary sources of oil, though recent customs data showed that no oil products were exported from China to North Korea in November, Reuters reported.

However, data regarding crude oil transfers between the countries was unavailable, as Beijing has not disclosed its crude exports to North Korea for several years.

Industry sources, though, have reported that China still supplies roughly 3.8 million barrels of crude each year to North Korea through an aging pipeline.

Since without oil, the North Korean military machine will eventually ground to a halt, the covert Chinese shipments are effectively helping to arm a nation that has been on the cusp of warfare with the United States for months.

So the situation is serious. The real question is whether top Chinese officials knew of the unlawful transactions.

Hua Chunying, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, insisted that the government did not know about the situation, arguing that her country is complying with the U.N.’s resolutions.

“As a principle, China has consistently fully, correctly, conscientiously and strictly enforced relevant UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea,” she said, according to Reuters.

Robert Kelly, professor of political science at South Korea’s Pusan National University, disagreed.

“There is a lot of under-the-radar on the Chinese side. Beijing does not police the border strictly or enforce the sanctions toughly,” he said, according to Fox. “This could be that.”

If Chinese government officials did know about this illegal oil trading off their coast, there should be serious consequences. There are reasons the U.N. and the U.S. imposed such strict rules on North Korea’s pariah regime, and violating those rules puts the entire world in danger.

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