Protests have been taking place in towns along the China-North Korea border following Beijing’s abrupt implementation of new United Nations sanctions prohibiting the export of seafood, among other commodities, from the DPRK.
Beijing’s August 15 abrupt announcement that it would begin implementation of the sanctions, which were announced on August 5 following two North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests, appears to have triggered the discontent.
“The Chinese government was supposed to stop (the import of seafood) on September 3rd, but closing the day before yesterday was a shock and has annoyed many people,” a source based in the border region told NK News on condition of anonymity.
The source said that protests had taken place at border towns due to the rapid nature of the suspension, confirming reports from Chinese social media detailing protests near the border city of Hunchun.
“They are upset it was so sudden and that they lost a lot of cash,” the border-based source told NK News. “Refrigerated trucks run off the gas and when the gas runs out, seafood melts, rots and starts to smell really bad.”
“I heard that over 200 Chinese trucks could not return to China in Dandong and 100 trucks in Rason,” the source continued.
Reports have been surfacing of protests and anger among Chinese traders since the announcement of the abrupt implementation of sanctions on Tuesday, with the New York Times having interviewed business people who reported losing tens of thousands of dollars of product.
“I think (the Chinese) are trying to show the Trump administration they’re taking sanctions seriously to tamp down an aggressive secondary sanctions campaign,” said Andray Abrahamian, a North Korea watcher who writes for the 38 North website.
“This quick implementation is really going to hurt a place like Hunchun that is so dependent on seafood importation and national distribution,” he said. “People will have had no time to adjust or plan for this.”
While it is unlikely the sanctions prohibiting North Korean export of seafood will be reversed any time soon, Abrahamian said that workarounds could nevertheless emerge in the weeks ahead.
“But it’s harder to smuggle than coal or minerals because it’s perishable and needs cold-chain logistics to stay fresh,” he said.
Tristan Webb, senior analyst at NK Pro, echoed Abrahamian’s sentiment regarding Beijing’s motivations.
“It seems China wants to reassure the U.S. that it is a reliable partner for implementing UN resolutions, he said.
“This makes it more difficult for Washington’s hard-liners to ‘punish’ China for not doing enough on Korea, and gives China more authority in insisting that the U.S. returns to negotiations, as called for in the resolutions.”
Photos of scores of trucks lining up at Dandong emerged earlier in the week with freshly caught seafood.
“The money from our own blood and sweat is all sitting on a bridge to China. Please, Chinese customs, let us go,” a translation of one protester’s banners near Hunchun said, according to the Globe and Mail on Friday.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News
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