China continues to do roaring business with North Korea despite U.N. sanctions designed to hamper Pyongyang’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs and punish its reclusive, hereditary dictatorship.
Reuters news agency, in a report from Dandong, China, on the North Korean border, says there is little evidence that the sanctions, imposed by the U.N. Security Council after North Korea’s underground nuclear test in February, are impacting thriving cross-border trade.
The news agency states it questioned more than a dozen Chinese businesses about the trade.
“About half said they had noticed customs authorities taking a closer look at shipments since the sanctions were put in place, though others said trade with North Korea was generally always more tightly monitored than with other countries,” Reuters reported.
The sanctions cover a wide variety of items that might be useful for Pyongyang’s prohibited weapons programs and luxury goods like yachts, high-end cars and speciality foods; and they impose tightened financial curbs, including on bulk cash movement.
Analysts say that the new sanctions are unlikely to be effective unless China — North Korea’s major aid donor, largest trading partner and only major ally — rigorously enforces them.
An unpublished U.N. study of a previous round of sanctions suggested that an unnamed third country — widely reported to be China — was allowing the trans-shipment of materials for North Korea’s weapon programs.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that North Korea has become increasingly dependent on trade with China—which rose to $5.9 billion in 2012 from $3.4 billion in 2010.
Chinese officials told Reuters that, under the sanctions, China had the right to continue legitimate trade and aid with North Korea.