Beijing has defended its trade practices today (Tuesday, April 18) after Chinese-made vehicles were seen carrying ballistic missiles during a North Korean military parade.
Saturday’s parade honouring North Korea’s “eternal president”, Kim Il Sung, came amid heightened tensions over the country’s nuclear ambitions. It featured a senior official, Choe Ryong Hae, warning of “all-out war” if North Korea was attacked.
Pictures released by the North Korean government showed submarine-launched missiles being carried on trucks made by Chinese company Sinotruk, an apparent breach of international trade sanctions.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the country conducted “normal business” with its neighbour while adhering to sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council.
“China has been performing its international obligations strictly, including those stipulated in the Security Council resolution. But meanwhile, we carry on normal economic exchanges and trade with all parties including North Korea,” Lu said.
China accounts for an estimated 80 per cent of North Korea’s foreign trade, while also providing crucial food and fuel assistance. Recently, in an apparent display of displeasure over Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ambitions, Beijing ceased imports of North Korean coal.
A sales manager for a Sinotruck dealer, Zhongnanhai, said the company exported about 1,000 trucks to North Korea every year, but purely for civilian use.
“We fully comply with the government regulations. If they are used by North Korea for military purpose, they must have been modified by the North Korean side,” said the sales manager, who gave his name as “Wang”.
He added that his company had “no way to monitor and approve the use of the trucks by North Korea.”
International observers have warned that over the past decade North Korea has become adept at circumventing UN sanctions, particularly so-called dual-use equipment that has both military and civilian applications.
North Korea makes use of “weak transshipment regulations, falsified cargo declarations and shipping documents, reflagging and disguised materials to import banned materials,” according to a 2015 report for the European Union Institute for Security Studies.