US offers $5mn reward for evidence of NK sanctions evasion, accuses China of failing to meet enforcement obligations

The US State Department has accused China of a “flagrant violation” of its UN Security Council obligation to enforce international sanctions on North Korea, with Washington offering up to $5 million for evidence of evasion.

Alex Wong, deputy assistant secretary for North Korea, made the comments during an event held by Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, and criticized China for allegedly failing or intentionally refusing to stop illicit imports on 555 separate occasions.

The State Department also accused China of failing to fulfill the terms of a UN Security Council resolution to repatriate North Korean laborers, saying Beijing continues to host at least 20,000. It said these workers earn revenue that Washington claims “goes straight back to North Korea’s weapons development efforts” to fund the construction of more ballistic missiles.

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Wong argued that China’s behavior indicates it is seeking to undo the UN sanctions regime aimed at trying to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, laying out “numerous, growing and worrying” examples of chronic failure. Beijing’s actions were described by the State Department as attempting to achieve premature sanctions relief through the diplomatic backdoor.

China publicly backed and voted for UN sanctions against North Korea in 2006, 2009, 2013, 2016 and 2017, as acknowledged by Wong. Despite the US criticism, Beijing has repeatedly insisted that it upholds UN sanctions against North Korea, even though, alongside Russia, it has sought to secure international agreement to ease the measures in order to make progress in the nuclear talks.

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