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N. Korea smuggled over $400 million worth of coal to China

N. Korea smuggled over $400 million worth of coal to China

Posted December. 09, 2020 07:28,   

Updated December. 09, 2020 07:28


North Korea is believed to have exported up to 401 million dollars worth of coal to China between January and September of this year despite UN sanctions banning North Korean coal exports. Experts point out that there are holes in the sanctions as North Korean vessels openly operated flying the North Korean flag.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Monday cited satellite images provided by the U.S. State Department showing that North Korean vessels have shipped hundreds of coal shipments to China’s Ningbo-Zhoushan area for the past year. More specifically, a satellite image taken on Aug. 12 showed four North Korea-flagged vessels anchoring off the Ningbo-Zhoushan area with Chinese ships, suggesting an illegal ship-to-ship transfer of coal.

Washington believes Pyongyang has smuggled 4.1 million tons of coals by Sep. this year. Assuming that the coals were sold for 80-100 dollars per ton, the total amount of export is between 330 million dollars and 410 million dollars. The international community including the U.S. is jointly monitoring North Korea’s illegal ship-to-ship transfer but the WSJ reported that North Korean vessels were sailing under the North Korean flag.

The U.S. accused China of ignoring the UN sanctions against North Korea. A senior U.S. State Department official said that a direct shipment of coal from North Korea to China is the first major change we have seen since the adoption of UN sanctions against North Korea in 2017, adding that China and North Korea are no longer trying to hide their smuggling activity.

Jong-Yeob JO jjj@donga.com