A glimmer of hopeIn a show of specific punitive actions against North Korea in its unfazed and eager pursuit of its nuclear weapons ambition, Chinese authorities clamped down on the Dandong-based Liaoning Hongxiang Group and arrested the group head known for extensive and avid business ties with North Korea on suspected “serious economic crimes.” Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang confirmed that “relevant authorities in China are investigating its misdoings, including economic crimes, in accordance with law.”
The 16-year-old group based in northeastern China has grown to 10 affiliates and 680 employees thanks to trade with North Korea. It runs a North Korean restaurant in the border city and owns a 30 percent stake in the Chilbosan Hotel in Shenyang, the alleged overseas nest of North Korean hackers. The foreign ministry said the probe into the group was a part of Beijing’s “earnest” implementation of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2270 and international obligations on export control.
A report by South Korean and U.S. authorities stated that the group engaged in $532 million worth of trade with North Korea from 2011 to 2015.
Among the items included outlawed aluminum oxide, tungsten trioxide and two other items that could be used for nuclear and weapons-making purposes. Pyongyang has been able to advance rapidly with its nuclear weapons program because it had been supplied with necessary materials from companies like Hongxiang.
Chinese authorities embarked on the investigation after U.S. prosecutors visited twice last month with packages of specific evidence. The case shows that what moves Beijing to effectively curb Pyongyang’s weapons program is hard and detailed evidence. Instead of nagging Beijing to partake in sanctions programs, we must come up with proof so that it has no choice but to follow through.
Because the goal of sanctions is to draw Pyongyang back to the table for denuclearization talks, we also need to prepare well for the aftermath of the sanctions. North Korea must realize that it can benefit if it yields its weapons program. Sticks always work best when accompanied with rewards.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 22, Page 34