The US and its allies are likely planning to take new action in response to reports that North Korea has earned millions through smuggling schemes but additional unilateral sanctions may only serve to hinder the ongoing inter-Korean dialogue, said Chinese experts.
North Korea earned nearly $200 million from exporting coal and other banned commodities in 2017, in violation of UN sanctions, CNN reported on Saturday citing a new UN report, which was authored by a panel of experts investigating North Korea and has been sent to a UN committee on North Korea.
The UN report also indicates that North Korea exported coal to China, Malaysia, Russia and Vietnam, and falsified documents to conceal the origin of the coal.
"China has fully implemented the UN Security Council's resolutions and has undertaken strict inspections to prevent smuggling of military goods to North Korea. The part in the report which involves China is not accurate," Lü Chao, a researcher on North Korea at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Lü said that previous rounds of sanctions on North Korea have greatly affected its economy, especially its chemical engineering and textile industries.
"Almost all North Korean factories along the China-North Korea border that used to process textile products have been closed. China's tourist and travel programs to North Korea have also been suspended. Chinese companies doing trade with North Korea in border cities, especially Dandong, have suffered great losses. No one should make groundless accusations against China," Lü said.
Investigators say North Korea "is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system," the document states, CNN reported.
The head of Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency told a German broadcaster that North Korea has been using its embassy in Berlin to procure parts for its missile program, Reuters reported.
"If the report is true, it shows the effectiveness of the past sanctions as they may have forced North Korea to explore illegal ways to make profits under huge pressure," Li Kaisheng, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
"The reports indicate a skeptical attitude in the international community toward North Korea and it may hinder the ongoing inter-Korean dialogue," Li said.
Experts said that the timing of the release of the report is suspicious as it serves to increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
"These reports may be used by the US and its allies to impose more sanctions on North Korea. The situation on the Korean Peninsula is not optimal considering inter-Koreans dialogues have not touched on the denuclearization issue. The US may keep up military pressure through its joint drills with South Korea after the Olympic Winter Games and North Korea may also take actions in response," Lü said.
Newspaper headline: UN report may spur new sanctions: expert