North Korea and China have been engaged in massive illicit offshore trading near their sea border to avoid international monitoring, a source said Thursday.
The source in China said dozens of Chinese ships have converged off the coast of Cholsan, North Pyongan every day to trade goods away from prying eyes at the land border. They trade not only food, construction materials, agricultural goods and daily necessities but also coal and iron ore, according to the source.
Chinese authorities have pledged to obey sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council in April, "but have yet to crack down on the offshore trade," the source added.
The smuggling operations have apparently allowed the North to raise enough money to pass out gifts ahead of the Workers Party anniversary celebrations in May.
A government source here confirmed the story. "We are receiving accounts of coastal trade being conducted between North Korea and China dealing in food, minerals and daily necessities. The amount is quite significant, especially from fisheries products."
The source said the offshore trade is not recorded in Chinese customs data. Trade between China and North Korea officially amounted to US$5.5 billion last year, but an intelligence source here said the illicit trade is estimated at another $2.2 billion.
Choe Kyong-hee at Hanyang University, a North Korean defector, said, "China may appear to be strengthening sanctions against trade with North Korea, as seen in the crackdown on Hongxiang Industrial Development Co., but illicit trade between the two countries will continue."
Meanwhile, North Korea has apparently increased exports of fisheries products to China and Russia in spite of the sanctions.
Voice of America on Wednesday cited Chinese customs data that put North Korea's exports of fisheries products to China in the first eight months of this year at around $110 million, up 70 percent on-year. Unlike coal and iron ore, there have been no moves by the international community to sanction North Korea's exports of fisheries products.
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