The Sino-North Korean border region near Dandong, Liaoning Province, has seen a recent rise in smuggling activities, and Chinese authorities are increasingly turning a blind eye to the activity, report Daily NK sources in China.
“China’s security forces and military cracked down severely on illicit trade in the region around Dandong up until this past spring, but recently the number of Chinese police and military officers in the region has drastically decreased,” said a source based in China on May 5.
“The situation has resulted in a huge increase in smuggling activities across the border.”
While sanctions slapped on North Korea by the UN Security Council have yet to be lifted, China appears to be broadly scaling back its crackdowns on smuggling in the border region.
The UN sanctions prohibit the export of North Korean seafood products. These products were added to the list of prohibited items in August 2017 through the passage of Resolution 2371. China moved to completely prohibit the import of seafood products from North Korea on August 15, 2017.
“North Korean reed leaves (used to package food items) and seafood products are being smuggled into Dandong via boat,” said a separate source in China.
“Once the vanguard of cracking down on such activity, Chinese border control agents are rarely seen anymore. This has led to increased smuggling in the region.”
Daily NK reported on May 29 that North Korean seafood products were being smuggled in volume into Hunchun and Hunchun Quanhe Port via Chinese customs checkpoints. This activity seems to indicate that smuggling across the border is increasing.
Early last month, a mountain of coal was seen by a Daily NK source sitting at the edge of the Amnok River near Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, located between Dandong and the Amnok River. The source suggested that the coal was being prepared for export into China as soon as sanctions on North Korea are lifted.
“Chinese merchants in Dandong are welcoming the loosening restrictions on smuggling because they benefit financially from it,” the initial source said.
“They have also expressed more optimism toward Kim Jong Un [in terms of increasing trade activity across the border].”