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China shifting stance toward NK amid tougher sanctions

Posted March. 09, 2013 04:24,   


China is significantly changing its stance on global sanctions against North Korea. Beijing had been dubbed the main culprit in reducing the effect of U.N. Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874 due to failure to properly implement sanctions after Pyongyang`s first two nuclear tests. Since the third test, however, China has gradually changed its attitude toward its traditional ally.

This means that unlike the sanctions adopted after the North`s first and second nuclear tests, the Security Council`s Resolution 2094 adopted Thursday, which does not include military sanctions, could apply practical pressure on North Korea. Considering that China accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s external trade excluding South Korea, a change in Beijing’s policy will likely have a notable impact on North Korean authorities.

○ China’s unusual open pressure on N. Korea

The Chinese Transportation Ministry, which handed down to its organizations an order to implement the resolution through its website, supervises oversight of airports, ports and roads, which has a direct impact on China’s trade with North Korea.

The note said, “U.N. Security Council resolutions 1718, 1874 and 2087 suggest that countries are immediately obliged to freeze funds and financial assets held by individuals and organizations on the list of bodies subject to the resolutions, restrict travel of the people involved, and ban transportation to North Korea of items on a list of restricted items. Refer to separate documents and websites related to the U.N. for details on the matter, including the list of sanctions and list of entities to be restricted.” Multiple diplomatic sources said the note was given to all executive bodies across China through related agencies, including customs and financial officials, the People’s Liberation Army and public security authorities.

Conspicuously, the website of China’s international joint venture has no note on implementing resolutions 1718 and 1874.

The shift in China’s stance is also clearly seen with the U.N. as well. Li Baodung, Chinese ambassador to the world body, told a news conference soon after the passage of the resolution Thursday, “We emphasize principle,” adding, “Passage of the resolution is not the end. What is more important is thorough implementation.” This effectively indicates that China will put into practice the latest resolution.

Kim Sook, South Korea’s head of mission to the U.N., also told South Korean correspondents in New York the same day, “China’s strengthened recognition played a crucial role in the passage of the resolution.”

○ Signs of practical sanctions throughout China

Trade volume between China and North Korea is confirmed to have significantly decreased due to strengthened customs clearance in border areas between both countries, including Dandong and Dalian in China`s Liaoning Province. An informed source on North Korean affairs in Dandong said, “The volume of trucks heading to North Korea has declined by about 20 percent. People are seeking other ways, such as shipment of freight through personnel or direct handing over of goods at border regions.”

Chinese authorities are also known to have toughened management of North Korean workers in China, one of North Korea’s key sources of foreign currency. Chinese authorities began a survey on the situation of such workers in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, among Chinese companies that employ North Koreans. Analysts say Beijing is indirectly pressuring Pyongyang by cracking down on the illegal employment of North Korean workers, which is rampant in China. A source in Beijing said, “China is silently pressuring Pyongyang, though not openly showing its facial expression."

In finance, sanctions are also reportedly implemented, including the freezing of accounts. As military units under the Chinese army have strengthened surveillance, the smuggling of rice and flour has declined sharply.

A ranking diplomatic source in Beijing said, “Since the U.N. Security Council’s latest resolution has been toughened significantly from the North`s first and second nuclear tests, Pyongyang will be dealt a major blow if Beijing proactively participates in the sanctions.”