North Korea exported sand to China in violation of U.N. sanctions, group says
06 Mar 2020

For several months last year, a steady stream of ships was observed dredging sand in a North Korean bay then transporting it to China, a Washington-based think-tank said on Wednesday.

The extraction of sand from North Korea to China would violate a 2017 U.N. Security Council resolution that prohibits North Korea from “supplying, selling, or transferring sand”, the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) said in a report.

The group’s researchers tracked the dredging and transport of the sand through commercial satellite imagery and shipping databases.

“Between March and August 2019, C4ADS observed a large fleet of vessels originating from Chinese waters traveling to North Korea to dredge and transport sand from Haeju Bay,” the report’s authors wrote, describing unusual ship traffic in a bay less than 30 km (18.6 miles) from neighboring South Korea.

China has called for sanctions to be eased on North Korea, but also says it fully enforces the sanctions imposed with its assent by the U.N. Security Council because of the isolated country’s nuclear and missile programs.

The United Nations has found that North Korea has repeatedly circumvented restrictions on trade of things like coal and oil, often by conducting ship-to-ship transfers at sea.

But the unprecedented scale and coordination of the dredging operation “showcases the boldness and impunity with which sanctions evasion networks operate, even under close scrutiny”, C4ADS said in its report.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, which has led international sanctions efforts on North Korea, said all U.N. states were required to implement U.N. sanctions resolutions.

By Josh Smith and David Brunnstrom, Reuters, 4 March 2020

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