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[ed] China errs

Paying for NK fishing rights to violate UN rule

China is obligated to clarify whether it has paid North Korea millions of dollars for fishing rights in the West and East Sea, because if they had it could be a flagrant violation of an important United Nations resolution.

The government recently confirmed that the North received about 82 billion won ($74 million) from Beijing in return for allowing Chinese fishing boats to catch fish in their territorial waters.

Last month, the National Intelligence Service, the nation's spy agency, disclosed that about $30 million was handed over to Pyongyang for allowing China to fish in the West Sea alone. At that time, it was seen purely as an issue of the Chinese wiping out fishing resources, such as crabs, as their armada illegally crossed the border southward. This time an immediate concern appears to be the depletion of squid in the East Sea.

This issue about fishing resources is important and should be dealt with between Seoul and Beijing but requiring equal attention, if not more, is whether the transfer of money by Beijing to Pyongyang in this transaction violates UN Resolution 2270.

This resolution is seen to be the toughest-ever against North Korea slapped on it early this year after the rogue state conducted a nuclear test and followed it with a long-range missile test. It was passed with the consensus of five veto-wielding permanent members of the United Nations Security Council including China and Russia, the two old ideological allies of the North, along with the United States, the United Kingdom and France.

It basically forces U.N. members to ban imports and exports to and from the North that may help the North in its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and allows them to conduct inspections into freighters that are suspected of carrying related materials. China, which accounted for much of the North's outside trade, fought to exempt fuels for civilian use from the embargo list.

The latest U.N. resolution is aimed at preventing the North from continuing on its dangerous path toward miniaturizing nuclear payloads on a more reliable delivery system with a longer range.

Buying fishing rights from the North may not be included in the "no-no" list but it would and should be a different matter, if the proceeds are being used to supplement the North's shortage of hard currency ― pivotal to securing parts and materials for its WMD programs.

For instance, the North has seen a drop of 40 percent and 88 percent respectively in its exports of coal and weaponry since the U.N. sanctions were implemented in March. This came on top of Seoul's closure of the joint industrial town of Gaeseong, the annual source of about $100 million, much of it being in hard currency. Reports have it that Pyongyang is also trying to sell mining rights for rare earth metals cheaply.

First, it is imperative to account for how China's payment is used and whether it is compromising the main goal of the U.N. resolution. If Beijing doesn't roll the fishing deal back when the North is found to have used it for forbidden purposes, the result would further damage China's trustworthiness, already being questioned for its bullying act in the South China Sea. Additionally, Seoul, Washington and Tokyo should take this issue seriously, considering that the more sophisticated the North's WMDs are the greater the threat to them. It's their obligation to confront China on this issue in the U.N. as well.

Oh Young-jin

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