China’s Crackdown On North Korea Is Real, Except For The Exceptions

North Korea has developed a large-caliber multiple launch rocket system that it could use it to strike South Korea as soon as this year, says South Korea’s defense minister.

The report in The Washington Post comes after earlier news that South Korea believes North Korea also has the ability to put a nuclear warhead on a medium-range missile.

“North Korea recently test-fired the new MLRS several times, so the development appears almost complete. We expect the new system to be deployed by the end of the year,” Defense Minister Han Min-koo told reporters, according to the Korea Times. Han added that Pyongyang’s development process has been under scrutiny by South Korea and the United States for the last three years. He added that the North has “developed the 300-millimeter MLRS because it costs less than ballistic missiles” and can be a “substitute for the North’s existing short-range Scud missiles.”

China responded to the news of North Korea’s increased rocket and missile testing by tightening trade restrictions with its ally this week, banning the import of goods that could benefit North Korea’s nuclear program.

China’s commerce ministry released a statement on Tuesday announcing a list of restrictions on imports from North Korea, a move which comes a month after Beijing backed enhanced United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang.

The announcement is positive news because China’s implementation of the sanctions are seen key to their overall effectiveness considering the integral role Beijing plays in the North’s foreign trade.

Trade data from the South Korean Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, as noted in an analysis published on the blog 38 North, reveals that China accounts for a staggering 90 percent of North Korea’s foreign trade.

According to Yonhap News, the Chinese will continue to import North Korean coal, iron, and iron ore if such transactions are involved in “livelihood purposes” and their revenues are not used for North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

As positive as the development might be, Rob Schmitz of Marketplace notes that those exceptions constitute the “devil in the details” of China’s announcement.

“There are key exceptions to China’s sanctions on North Korea that threaten to water down any meaningful impact on North Korea’s development of a nuclear weapons program. First off, China has not banned the import of North Korean coal,” he writes.

Another loophole in the sanctions is one that may be tougher to eliminate – the illegal trade crossing the China-North Korea border, reports The New York Times.

China accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s trade and half of that travels through Dandong, China.

“Virtually everything that keeps the North Korean economy afloat passes through here: Coal and iron ore come in, violating the sanctions, and crude oil flows out, exempted from them. Smuggling is rampant,” reports the Times.

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