North Korean ship seized by Chinese border guards on smuggling charges

Seol Song Ah  |  2017-06-30 03:21
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A North Korean ship was seized by Chinese border guards on trespassing and smuggling charges in the Amnok (Yalu) River region in Dandong City, Liaoning Province. The ship and cargo has reportedly been confiscated and the six North Korean crew members have been repatriated back to North Korea through Dandong-Sinuiju customs.

Late at night on June 20, a seizure operation was carried out in Dandong City (China), opposite the North Korean city of Sinuiju across the Amnok River. The Chinese authorities have been strengthening crackdowns in the region as part of a wider campaign to eliminate smuggling activities. Chinese border officials reportedly detected the smuggling operation on the night beforehand and decided to launch a raid the following night.

"The North Korean fishing boat was seized by Chinese border guards while trying to transfer smuggled products to their Chinese partners near the shore of the Amnok River in the middle of the night, a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on June 26.

"The ship is a foreign currency-earning vessel belonging to a certain agency in North Pyongan Province, and six laborers were on board at the time. They were selling fish caught in the Amnok River to the Chinese side in the shared territorial water zone, but as the Chinese ships have been unable to venture out to the zone recently, the North Korean ship decided to illegally enter Chinese waters, inviting trouble.

The Chinese authorities have announced their intent to more actively participate in the implementation of international sanctions against North Korea and prevent smuggling activities, which have been prevalent despite the sanctions.

Dandong City in particular has been intensifying crackdowns on border smuggling since May, with Chinese public security officials and border guards at the center of operations. Penalties are being imposed even on Chinese ships, and in the most serious cases, the ships are confiscated.

"It is unusual for Chinese authorities to board smuggling ships on-site, as they never took such moves against North Korean ships entering the waters of Dandong before. Hearing about the confiscation of the cargo as well, people are worried that the Chinese authorities are taking a firm position this time," the source added.

Six crew members were repatriated to North Korea through Sinuiju customs following two days of interrogation, and they are reportedly now under further investigation by North Koreas Ministry of State Security.

"It is possible that the crew members will be charged for undermining national authority as well, because they were smuggling into China. If so, they will receive at least three years at a re-education camp after the investigations are completed," said a separate source in North Pyongan Province.

Chinese public security officials and border guards have been seen patrolling the Port of Dandong recently, with a heightened presence. At present, it seems that the crackdowns on border smuggling will continue for some time. 

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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