Recent UN sanctions against North Korea are seeming to go unnoticed. Chinese inspection of North Korean goods crossing into the country are minimal, at best, with few being inspected at all. According to the Chinese news media, everything remains the same.

China and North Korea have a uniquely developing trade relationship. Although China has long been North Korea’s most important oil supplier and aid donor, North Korea is sending increasing amounts of electricity and coal to China. The New York Times reports an even more surprising twist with news that, “Chinese entrepreneurs, meanwhile, are starting to buy shares in North Korean mining operations and, in one case, trying to gain access to the Sea of Japan by leasing a North Korean port as a potential shipping hub.”

Even though China approved the UN sanctions against Korea, it seems they are paying them little attention. The sanctions authorized allow for inspections of goods leaving and entering North Korea and bars transfer or sale of material that could be used for nuclear weapons making. The hope is that tightened measures will put pressure on the already strained North Korean economy and prevent further nuclear production. But with a country already suffering from excessive poverty and hunger, the effects of an economic squueze may send refugees pouring into China, a country with a population in excess of one billion.

A cessation of trade with China would be detrimental for North Korea. Trade with China accounts for 40% of North Korea’s foreign trade. Because of this, China is most certainly the key to preventing further production of nuclear means in North Korea. As the BBC reports, “There is no doubt that as such a major supplier of aid to North Korea it does have some leverage.” There are few hopes of an improving society for the oppressed North Koreans and if they continue nuclear production, their hopes will dwindle to even less.

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