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Yoshihiko Yamada

【#462】China-N. Korea Fishing Deal Is A Loophole in UN Sanctions

Yoshihiko Yamada / 2017.08.29 (Tue)

August 28, 2017

     On August 5, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted new sanctions on North Korea for its firing of intercontinental ballistic missiles. The new sanctions include a ban on coal, iron ore and seafood imports from North Korea, on any increase in the acceptance of North Korean workers and on new joint ventures with North Korea. If the coal, iron ore and seafood embargo is thoroughly implemented, North Korean exports may be cut by more than 30% to virtually paralyze its economy.
     According to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency of South Korea, North Korean seafood exports totaled about $112 million in 2015, being a precious source to earn foreign currencies. More than 95% of the seafood exports, most of which are squid, sea cucumbers and shellfish, are destined for China. Therefore, if China bans seafood imports from North Korea, the fisheries industry in North Korea may collapse. However, China and North Korea have economic transactions that effectively serve as a loophole in the new U.N. sanctions. In fact, North Korea has sold fishing rights off its coast in the Sea of Japan to China.

$6 million contract to allow fishing
     South Korea’s KBS television has reported that North Korea signed a contract with fishery traders in China’s Zhejiang Province last year to allow 300 Chinese fishing boats to operate in Pyongyang-controlled waters in the Sea of Japan for three months between August 1 and October 30 during the peak squid-fishing season for the amount of money equivalent to $20,000 per boat. This case represents just the tip of the iceberg. More than 1,000 Chinese fishing boats are believed to have obtained fishing rights in North Korean waters. Through such contract, China can get North Korean seafood even without imports from North Korea.
     Chinese fishing boats operating in the Sea of Japan are much larger than those of Japan or North Korea. The tonnage of most Chinese boats reaches 300 tons against 30 to 180 tons for Japanese squid-fishing boats and 5 to 50 tons for North Korean boats. The tonnage of some Chinese fishing boats exceeds 1,000 tons. Chinese boats allowed by Pyongyang to operate keep catching as many fish and squid as possible during the contract period. Fish caught by Chinese fishing boats are frozen within these boats or large fish processing factories in the North Korean coastal city of Wonsan before being shipped or transported by road through North Korea to China.

North Korean seafood embargo in name only
     Unless such fishing right deal is prohibited, the embargo on North Korean seafood will be in name only. Rather, such deal may be more efficient for North Korea than exporting fish caught by its small boats. After the fishing season in North Korean waters, Chinese boats enter Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan for illicit fishing, as confirmed by fishermen in Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture.
     The Japanese government should urge the United Nations Security Council to make sure that fishing right deals are subject to the North Korean seafood embargo. Such Japanese action is urgently required to block North Korea’s reckless military provocations and protect fishing grounds in the Sea of Japan.

Yoshihiko Yamada is a Director, the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Tokai University