Chinese authorities are preventing North Korean trading company representatives, suspected of being complicit in the sale of materials related to the development of nuclear weapons and missiles in North Korea, from leaving the country.
The development follows the arrest of owner and founder of Hongxiang Industrial Development based in the border city of Dandong, Ma Xiaohong, who has been under investigation for a number of weeks.
By conducting a thorough investigation and resolving all lingering suspicions, the Chinese authorities are attempting to avoid accusations from the international community that they have been complicit in violations of United Nations Security Council Resolution sanctions against the North.
“Most of the companies that achieve success through North Korea-China trade have some sort of relationship with Liaoning Hongxiang’s President, Ma Xiaohong. The Chinese government is conducting investigations on North Korean executives with connections to these firms. As a result, they are being blocked from exiting the country for the time being,” a source close to North Korean affairs in China told Daily NK on September 23.
“Ms. Ma was able to engage in black market dealings of nuclear munitions materials by using large proxy companies. Without the support of these companies, the sales would not have been feasible. Munitions firms operating under the proxy companies sold the materials to North Korean representatives in China, who then attempted to return to North Korea. Their exit, however, was blocked.”
According to the source, Chinese judicial authorities first learned that materials in violation of various UN sanctions were being smuggled into North Korea years ago. The source indicated that they even quietly approached President Ma in the past. Now things have been taken to a more serious level, as the authorities have summoned Ma’s suspected co-conspirators from other companies in Dandong and Shenyang.
Authorities are focusing the investigation on a number of large proxy companies in Dandong that are suspected of packaging and exporting materials involved in the development of nuclear weapons. If the accusations are true, then it follows that certain North Korean trading companies were operating in direct violation of international law.
An additional source in China with knowledge of the issue reported that as Pyongyang prepares to celebrate [Korean Workers’] Party Foundation Day on October 10, trading indexes in Pyongyang are pointing to a downwards trend. Now that several North Korean companies are being tied up by investigations, they will have even less time and energy to devote to improving those trade figures. The trading companies are expecting the North Korean authorities to work with their Chinese counterparts to settle this situation, but thus far the regime has not intervened on their behalf.
“These trading company executives need to face the fact that their fates have been decided. Even if they are allowed to return to North Korea, they will most likely be fired or stripped of their party membership for bringing shame on the nation,” the source explained.
“This has resulted in an uneasy atmosphere among the larger community of trading company executives, who see the regime’s lack of action as a cold-hearted calculation.”