North Korea sold $30M of fishing rights to Chinese vessels, Seoul says

SEOUL, July 1 (UPI) — North Korea‘s latest policies might be behind the increased presence of Chinese boats in or near South Korean waters.

The cash-strapped Pyongyang regime, under heavy international sanctions in 2016, sold $30 million worth of fishing rights to more than a 1,000 Chinese vessels, The Korea Herald reported Friday.

The number of licenses issued has tripled from previous years, said Lee Wan-young, a South Korean lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri party, after a meeting with the National Intelligence Service.

“North Korean people, too, are unhappy because it has shrunk the catch and caused common complaints with their southern counterparts regarding worsening environmental damage such as from fuel oil sludge at sea,” Lee said.

Lee Cheol-uoo, another ruling party lawmaker present at the closed-door briefing, said he was told the latest round of sanctions has had a minimal effect on the regime’s financial sector, News 1 reported.

Key exports, though, are dwindling, according to the NIS.

“At present coal accounts for about 40 percent of all North Korean exports, but after sanctions the coal trade declined by about 40 percent, and arms exports dropped by about 88 percent,” the lawmaker said, quoting the spy agency’s findings.

The NIS also stated Pyongyang is expected to continue firing Musudan midrange ballistic missiles, and a missile fired last week reached about 250 miles before falling into waters below.

North Korea said Tuesday its military is “only waiting for the command to launch,” less than a week after test-firing midrange ballistic missiles into the sea.

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