An acute shortage of gasoline in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang that has sparked price hikes and hoarding is raising fears of potentially crippling pain at the pumps if things don't get better soon—and driving rumors that China is to blame. The shortage, which is extremely unusual if not unprecedented, began last week when signs went up at gas stations around the city informing customers that restrictions on sales would be put in place until further notice, the AP reports. With no indication as of Wednesday night of when the restrictions might be lifted—or why they've been imposed—drivers continue to scramble to fill up their tanks and whatever other containers they can find.
Prices, meanwhile, have shot up. They had been fairly stable, typically at about 70 to 80 cents a kilogram, but on Wednesday at least one station was charging $1.40, which works out to about $5.30 a gallon. China supplies most of North Korea's fuel, and rumors are rife that Beijing is behind the shortage. Limiting the oil supply has been openly discussed in Beijing as one option for getting Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Two days after the restrictions were announced, North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency carried an unusually acerbic editorial, saying a "nearby country" would face "catastrophic consequences" in relations with North Korea if it kept applying economic sanctions.