Photos of Air China refueling in Pyongyang have led to accusations from the US that China has defied tough international sanctions against the repressive North Korean regime.
Pictures have emerged documenting that Air China frequently refuels at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport (FNJ). Air China flies Boeing 737s to the North Korean capital and over the last three years has been frequently refueled by Air Koryo. Air Koryo is North Korea’s flag carrier and also closely linked to the military.
Air China confirmed the fuel purchase to the Financial Times:
“Due to considerations of flight safety and economic interests, Air China on the Beijing-Pyongyang-Beijing flight path takes off with fuel for a single journey from Beijing to Pyongyang and then refuels in Pyongyang before returning to Beijing.”
The question is what is the source of this fuel? Strict international sanctions block the sale of aviation fuel to Kim Jong Un’s regime. US Intelligence officials believe North Korea does not have the refining capacity to produce its own jet fuel.
Working on the theory that if sanctions were working, North Korea would be starved for aviation fuel and not simply sell it to Air China each day, the Pentagon has suggested that China is helping North Korea circumvent the sanctions. China has denied the charges.
The other answer could simply be that North Korea relies upon China for humanitarian aid and “sacrifices” its own jet fuel for a greater prize. But whatever the case, Air China finds itself in the middle of dueling claims between US and Chinese officials.
image: Alan Wilson / Flickr