New sanctions imposed on North Korea last month are starting to have an impact on the reclusive communist state.
The sanctions are now having so much of an impact that gas sales have been banned for most North Koreans.
Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun reported that only elite officials and military officials are still able to purchase gas.
All other North Koreans are unable to buy gas “no matter how much money is offered,” a source told the newspaper.
Only officials with a special license plate starting with the numbers 727 can still buy the gas.
The drastic measures taken by North Korea’s leadership came despite large stockpiles of gas that the regime has been collecting since the beginning of this year.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last month that the rogue state had begun hoarding gas in anticipation of the election of America’s new president.
Since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has taken a hard line on the communist regime, which has often called for the destruction of the United States and its allies.
Early last month the U.N. Security Council passed a new set of sanctions pushed by the United States in response to North Korea’s sixth underground nuclear test.
The sanctions ban all gas sales to North Korea and limit the amount of refined and crude oil that can be sold to it. Trump had wanted a complete ban on oil exports but received pushback from China and Russia.
Last week North Korea made a rare admission—the sanctions are having an effect.
An article published by its official state mouthpiece said that the newly imposed sanctions were creating a “colossal amount of damage.”
The North Korean regime abides by it’s “military first” strategy, which puts the needs of its military officials and personnel above anything else.
The regime spends up to 24 percent of its GDP on military expenditures, according to the most recent numbers from the State Department.
By comparison, NATO members have a target of spending 2 percent of their GDP on defense each year, with most members falling short of that. The United States spent 3.6 percent of its GDP last year on defense.
North Korea’s focus on its military is seen by its leaders as the key to guarantee their power both domestically and internationally.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who inherited the country’s nuclear program—initially started by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, and further advanced by his father, Kim Jong Il—has sped up its process.
Since coming to power in 2011, Kim Jong Un has conducted an estimated 85 missile tests—far more than his father and grandfather combined.
CIA analyst Yong Suk-Lee said on Wednesday that Kim’s main focus is on staying in power.
“He wants to rule for a long time and die in his own bed,” Yong said at an event at George Washington University.
This tight grip on power comes at a large price for North Korea’s citizens, many of whom live in abject poverty.
At any one time the regime has hundreds of thousands of North Koreans in its notorious prison camps.
“Induced starvation is common among prisoners, who are driven to catch and eat rodents, frogs, and snakes,” the U.S. State Department said in a report last month.
A former North Korean prison guard is cited in the report saying that many prisoners were like “‘walking skeletons, ‘dwarfs,’ and ‘cripples’ in rags.”
Other prison guards said they were taught not to view prisoners as humans.
North Korean prisons contain torture chambers in which prisoners are forced to sit on their knees for extended periods of time while being beaten by guards.
“Guards severely beat prisoners for even the slightest movements,” the report cited a former prison guard as saying, adding that “prisoners detained in the punishment chambers were often crippled after three months and dead within five months.”
Similar torture methods are still widely used in communist China, where prisoners of conscience such as practitioners of Falun Gong, Christians, Uyghurs, and human rights lawyers continue to be tortured and killed.