Japanese-made luxury vehicles that were used by Chinese military forces are being smuggled into North Korea through the Chinese border city of Dandong, Liaoning province, an informed source said.
While such vehicles are among luxury goods whose export to North Korea is banned under U.N. sanctions, it is believed that many banned items are secretly being brought into the reclusive country through informal channels at the China-North Korea border.
According to the source in Dandong, who is familiar with the Chinese and North Korean situations, photographs were taken of two Toyota Land Cruisers in the city last month. The vehicles were to be brought into North Korea, the source said.
They were originally used by the People’s Liberation Army but were not disposed of through official channels, the source said.
It is not clear which organization or organizations in North Korea bought the vehicles.
The vehicles cost about $13,000 each, the source said.
It appears that the vehicles were in use for more than 10 years. Ahead of delivery to North Korea, they were repainted and had other exterior maintenance work.
“It is unlikely that the Chinese military is involved (in the smuggling) systematically. Some people related to the military appear to have sold the used vehicles through informal channels to make extra money,” the source said.
Used vehicles are being delivered illegally to North Korea by boat and other means, skipping formal procedures at Chinese customs and avoiding detection.
The source said that used heavy construction machinery is also being smuggled into North Korea. “There are dealers specializing in smuggling. There must be collaborators among border control officials,” the source said.
Meanwhile, another source familiar with the situation in North Korea said that Chinese authorities have intensified crackdowns on smuggling since the second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which took place late February in Vietnam, ended without a deal.
Chinese authorities may be taking action at the wish of the United States and others at a time when strengthened border controls by China have made transactions through official channels difficult, leading to more widespread smuggling.