China failed to send home North Korean workers by a December deadline in violation of United Nations sanctions, a senior US official said on Wednesday, adding that this was why Washington had blacklisted two entities involved in Pyongyang’s labour export.
A 2017 UN Security Council resolution, which China backed, demanded that all countries repatriate all North Korean workers by December 22 to stop them earning foreign currency for North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
The United States has estimated Pyongyang was earning more than $500m a year from nearly 100,000 workers abroad, of which some 50,000 were in China and 30,000 in Russia.
North Korean workers were also previously employed in Qatar for the World Cup in 2022, as well as in Kuwait, according to a previous Reuters report. Both countries stopped renewing visas for those workers in compliance with the UN sanctions.
“Many – most … have actually taken this to heart and moved them,” a senior State Department official told reporters, referring to the repatriation requirement.
“But we know one particular country has the large majority of North Korean guest workers and has not taken action, hence the steps we had to take in terms of sanctions.”