Last week, “United Press International” (UPI), quoting Radio Free Asia, ran a story entitled “North Korean diplomats smuggling luxury goods through Mongolia – the route is being used to send banned goods to Pyongyang”. This story was picked up by Mongolian news agencies.
The RFA source is quoted as saying that “Pyongyang's diplomats are using their passports to carry the goods across the border undetected. Electronic components that can be used in nuclear and missile production are being transported across the route.”
The latest UN Security Council sanctions resolution is aimed at the non-weapons trade, in particular expensive goods; it is well known that Kim Jong-un has a particular penchant for elite luxury items. UPI specifically mentions luxury watches, jet skis and snowmobiles all valued at more than $2000 as being targeted. According to the UPI article: “The goods are sometimes listed under a third-party firm or individual to cross into Mongolia from China, and the illegal goods movement is concealed by legitimate businesses”.
The Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that the information about illicit activity among N.Korea’s diplomats in Ulaanbaatar is unfounded. In the same statement, the Mongolian MFA said that the reports about a secret visit to Ulaanbaatar by the N.Korean Foreign Minister were incorrect.