February 11, 2016 10:44
A Chinese company acted as intermediary in North Korea's import of Austrian ski resort equipment including snowmobiles, snowblowers and a mile-long cable car system, the New York Times reported last Friday.
The revelation suggests that China blatantly ignored UN sanctions prohibiting the sale of luxury products to the North.
The cable cars were installed at a ski resort in Masikryong near Wonsan, Kangwon Province which opened in 2013 and was modeled after a Swiss resort.
The area has some 49.6 km of ski slopes, as well as an outdoor skating rink and swimming pool.
Quoting sources at Austrian cable car manufacturer Doppelmayr and second-hand dealer Pro-Alpin, the daily said the cable cars were sold to an unidentified Chinese company, which then arranged for the equipment to be shipped to North Korea.
The cable cars were used for years in the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl. Foreigners who visited Masikryong posted photos on social media showing the cable cars running at the resort.
UN sanctions prohibit exports of luxury goods to North Korea including jewelry, premium sedans, champagne, caviar and expensive yachts. China told a UN panel the sanctions did not apply to the ski resort because skiing is a "normal activity" in North Korea.
"Skiing is a popular sport for people, and ski equipment or relevant services are not included in the list of prohibited luxury goods," the Chinese told a UN watchdog in 2015.
In fact the vast majority of North Koreans live below the poverty line and could not afford to go skiing even if they had freedom of movement.
The sanctions, imposed in 2006 and tightened since then, "still allow China to trade with North Korea in vital sectors like oil, banking and shipping -- but billions of dollars' worth of luxury items also manage to slip through," the NYT said.
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