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U.S. Condemns China’s Failure to Enforce Sanctions against N. Korea

On Tuesday December 1, at an online seminar that the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank hosted, Alex Wong, deputy assistant secretary of state for North Korea, said that China’s failure, if not refusal, to implement UN sanctions aimed at denuclearizing North Korea may be delaying the process.

The UN Security Council obligated all UN Member States to repatriate DPRK laborers by the end of last year. “China continues to host at least 20,000 DPRK laborers, who earn revenue that goes straight back to North Korea’s weapons development efforts. In fact, earlier this year Chinese authorities were making it easier for DPRK nationals to work in China, in complete violation of its UN obligations.”

“The Chinese government increasingly allows its companies to conduct trade with North Korea in a broad spectrum of UN-prohibited goods, including seafood, textiles, iron and steel, industrial machinery, transportation vehicles, and sand and gravel. Chinese companies transact with North Korean companies and establish UN-prohibited joint ventures with them. They even continue to conduct business with UN-designated North Korean entities and those operating on their behalf—including entities that play key roles in North Korea’s weapons programs.”

China also hosts no less than two dozen North Korean WMD and ballistic missile procurement representatives and bank representatives.

“In the past year, on 555 separate occasions, we have observed ships carrying UN-prohibited coal or other sanctioned goods from North Korea to China. On none of these occasions did the Chinese authorities act to stop these illicit imports. Not once.”

“400 of those voyages were North Korean-flagged vessels shipping coal to Chinese coastal waters. Most of these shipments go to China’s busy Ningbo-Zhoushan area, where the vessels are required to provide extensive information about their identity, origin, and destination to local authorities. These ships are not coming to China like a thief in the night. They are ringing the doorbell and literally announcing themselves. Yet the Chinese authorities have done nothing.”

“On another 155 separate occasions, Chinese-flagged coastal barges have sailed directly into North Korea, loaded up on UN-prohibited coal, and then carried the illicit cargo back to Chinese ports.”

Wong acknowledged that China has reduced its overall trade with the DPRK since 2017, and especially in 2020 due to COVID-19. “The remaining illicit, unreported trade that exists is significant and it is trending in the wrong direction. In no other country do we see this breadth and depth of continuing illicit commercial activity with North Korea, the scale of which puts China in flagrant violation of its obligations.”

To help expose sanctions evasion activities by North Korea, the US State Department has, since June 2019, offered up to a $5 million reward for information on such activities.

According to Wong, the State Department on Tuesday launched a website specifically dedicated to such information.

“Today, the State Department is launching a new website,, through which individuals across the globe (can) provide information to our rewards for justice program on DPRK sanction evasions,” he said.

Wong argued that removing or easing sanctions on North Korea now would only weaken the reasons for North Korea to consider denuclearization faithfully.

“Chinese leaders are asking us to build the frame of a house, even furnish it, without laying the foundation first,” said Wong.

Source: U.S. State Department, November 30, 2020