A train carrying Chinese corn has arrived in North Korea, the first international cargo train to cross the Sino-Korean border in more than a year amid warning of a shortage, sources in China said. a serious shortage in the poor North.
Freight has not been circulating freely from China since the onset of the coronavirus epidemic in January 2020. Fears that the virus could spread into North Korea, Beijing and Pyongyang agreed to shut down. The Sino-North Korean border is 880 miles long in a move that has proven disastrous for an economy that has been pinched by UN and US sanctions over North Korea’s nuclear program.
Many people in North Korea who make a living by selling goods from China have no way to make ends meet. They have called for an end to the trade ban, but the government has prioritized emergency measures against the spread of the virus.
“An international freight train carrying aid goods for North Korea left Dandong Station early this morning and headed for North Korea,” a Korean-Chinese citizen told Korea Service Station on the 17th. / 4.
“After completing the customs procedures at Sinuiju station, the Chinese cargo train will arrive at Seopo station, the last station of Pyongyang,” the source asked to remain anonymous said for security reasons. First, the train will be disinfected in Sinuiju, where equipment was recently purchased for this purpose, the source added.
A train full of cargo into North Korea is being seen as a good sign for those hoping to fully resume trade.
The fact that the aid train, not using the new railway, transports Chinese goods to the processing center in nearby Uiju may indicate that it is not part of the official lifting of the trade ban. The source said there was a considerable amount of secrecy surrounding the ship and its contents.
“What they loaded onto the train is officially unknown to the staff at Dandong station. But those who see the loaded goods know that it is food, because food is the most pressing problem in North Korea. It was not rice, but about 300 tons of maize, the source said.
“They are sending corn instead of rice and some say North Korea is claiming it as fodder, and then it will be used as food. The source said: Ngo has become the main source of food for the Korean army working on national construction projects.
Although food items are not banned under international sanctions, this secrecy could be an attempt to protect Beijing from international and domestic criticism.
The Chinese people in Dandong were not enthusiastic about their government’s aid to North Korea, the source said.
“The Chinese here believe that no matter how much food they send to North Korea, pouring water into a broken pot will make no difference,” said the source.
“They are showing a negative reaction, saying that although people may starve to death, they do not know how much food they will provide even if North Korea receives thousands of tons of food.”
Another source, a Dandong confirmed to RFA on the same day that the train left Dandong for North Korea at 3 o’clock that morning.
“For some reason, the Chinese authorities are hiding detailed information about the cargo … Even the staff at the station are not informed of what was loaded on the cargo train. . It is a secret for everyone, ”said the second source.
“It is too early to judge whether trade between China and North Korea will resume and whether we can exchange goods again, but the truth is that China has already started supplying supplies. granted in the form of loans because of food and supply shortages in North Korea. in severity, ”said the second source.
According to the second source, people in North Korea knew that shipments from China were coming.
“I spoke to my counterpart in North Korea … As news spread that support and supplies were coming from China, people hoped that it would help alleviate food shortages and supplies.” provided, ”said the second source.
An RFA report on April 16 quoted a Korean-Chinese citizen in Dandong as saying that the train carrying 300 tons of food was the first supply of supplies sent to North Korea.
“In addition, trucks carrying agricultural products and construction materials are waiting to cross the border…. not only at Dandong station, but also near Donggang and the new Yalu River bridge, where there are also large piles of supplies waiting to be sent to North Korea by large cargo trucks, ”the source added. The source is pesticides. , fertilizer and plastic film used in rice cultivation.
Life in North Korea without Chinese trade is harsh.
The UN Special Rapporteur on North Korea’s Human Rights Tomás Ojea Quintana warned in a report last month that closing the border and restricting the movement of its people could lead to a “crisis. serious food ”.
“Starvation deaths have been reported, along with an increase in the number of children and elderly begging due to the inability of families to support them,” the report said.
RFA reported earlier this month that the North Korean government had warned people to prepare for dire economic hardships like the 1994-1998 famine that killed millions, or 10% of the population by some estimates. count.
This month, Kim Jong Un was quoted by state media as saying that the country faced severe challenges.
“Improving people’s living standards … even in the worst situation where we have to overcome countless unprecedented challenges depending on the role of the party cells, grassroots organizations” Mr. Kim said in his opening address at the conference of the ruling Workers Party’s Party secretaries.
Jieun Kim’s Report to RFA’s Korea Service. Translation by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.