Their government is boasting about nuclear arms yet are its citizens running out of gas? North Korean car owners in Pyongyang are reportedly scrambling to get gas from stations amidst concerns of a spreading supply shortage.
One gasoline station in the state's capital had a sign on Friday that sales would be restricted to diplomats and vehicles used by international organizations only. Other stations were closed, while others were said to be refusing to sell gas to local residents. Lines in other open stations are reportedly getting longer while prices are rising significantly.
There's no official announcement or clarification yet to explain the sudden restrictions on gas supply. It is known, however, that North Korea relies heavily on China for its supply of fuel. Beijing is reportedly tightening its enforcement of international sanctions meant to force Pyongyang to abandon development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
China would not give a direct answer, however, when asked if it is restricting fuel deliveries to Pyongyang. Chinese spokesman Lu Kang said people should only listen to the "authoritative remarks" or statements of the Chinese government, but did not clarify what the official statements are. He said it is up to media to use as references the remarks being made by other people or circulated online.
Gasoline supply is controlled by the state in North Korea. Residents need to first purchase coupons at a cashier's booth for the amount of fuel they want. After filling up the tank, whatever is left on the coupons can be used on later visits until their expiration dates. A common amount for the coupons is pegged at 15 kilograms, or 19.65 liters or 5.2 U.S. gallons.
Prices of gas have gone up, from the previous 70-80 cents per kilogram to $1.25. The restrictions started Wednesday.
President Trump has been calling on China to do its part in managing North Korea's nuclear ambitions, even tweeting about it. Pyongyang's nuclear arms expansion was also one of the top priorities discussed during the recent visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the U.S. where Trump hosted him in the family resort Mar-a- Lago in Florida. It is not yet clear whether the fuel restrictions now in Pyongyang has anything to do with the U.S. pressure on China to rein in North Korea.