China believed to demand N. Korea bring back all of its workers: source

The Chinese government is believed to have demanded North Korea bring back all of its workers in China, a source said Tuesday, a move that would squeeze Pyongyang’s hard currency earnings.

North Korea reportedly wants to gradually recall its workers in China to the North, but China is believed to have requested Pyongyang return home its workers en masse whose visas expire, according to the source.

North Korea has sent workers abroad, including Russia, China, Mongolia and Africa, to earn hard currency in violation of U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolutions against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

All member states of the U.N. were required to repatriate any North Koreans earning income in their jurisdiction by the end of 2019 under UNSC Resolution 2397, adopted in 2017.

But the bulk of North Korean workers are still believed to be staying in China, with some estimating the number at around 100,000.

China, North Korea’s main ally and economic benefactor, is also believed to have tightened custom
s clearances of its exports to North Korea and stepped up crackdowns on North Korea’s suspected smuggling, according to the source.

Experts said China may try to increase its leverage on North Korea at a time when Pyongyang has been bolstering military and other cooperation with Russia.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said it is keeping close tabs on the situation over North Korea’s overseas workers.

“North Korea’s dispatch of its workers abroad and its smuggling of coal and oil via ship-to-ship transfer are illegal activities that violate the UNSC resolutions,” a ministry official said

“As a (nonpermanent) member of the council, the government is urging all U.N. member states to thoroughly enforce the UNSC resolutions.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency