Chinese partnership with nuclear-linked North Korean venture? – China politics and current affairs news from May 8, 2017


A summary of today’s top news in Chinese politics and current affairs. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "The Kushner visa program — apply in Beijing or Shanghai."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un applauds during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of the country's founding father, Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

On May 7, the Wall Street Journal revealed (paywall) a previously unreported partnership between China’s Limac Corporation and North Korea’s Ryonbong General Corporation that has been in place since 2008 “to mine tantalum, niobium and zirconium, minerals that are useful in making phones and computers but also nuclear reactors and missiles.” The business venture violates years of sanctions against Ryonbong imposed by the U.S. since 2005 and by the UN since 2009 because of the company’s suspected involvement with weapons of mass destruction.

A U.S.-based financial intelligence firm called Sayari Analytics had uncovered the Limac-Ryonbong link but did not publicize it, and neither it nor the Journal were able to confirm the current status of the partnership. Limac told the Journal that the venture “never launched regular business activities,” though “Chinese corporate records show the joint venture maintained a registered office in China” until February 2017.

The existence of such a sanctions-defying business venture underscores the continuing gap between how much China is willing to criticize North Korea and how much it is willing to exert economic pressure on the Hermit Kingdom. Despite “fraying ties” between the two countries as illustrated by a war of words in both sides’ state media, China announced (paywall) last month that its trade with North Korea had expanded, even as it denied coal shipments and claimed to comply with all UN sanctions.