North Korea panic: Kim Jong-un turns to China – rogue state in crisis

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Kim Jong-un admitted last month his country was struggling to meet its economic objectives, a rare admission of failure from the North Korean leader. The nation has been forced to increase its dependance on China.

Over recent weeks, North Korea has battled against the coronavirus pandemic, received harsh sanctions from the US and UN and saw its legal trade with Beijing crumble.

The country has also witnessed a series of devastating typhoons and flooding.

Now analysts have said these catastrophes have increased the important of revenue form North Koreans operating overseas as well as cash from cyber crime.

Peter Ward, an expert on the North Korean economy at the University of Vienna, said: “It is probably worse than it has been for a long time.

“Things do look very, very bad and they looked like they were bad before the coronavirus hit.

“They could look at the issue of structural reform at home – but I don’t think they will; there are very few indications that they are thinking about it.”

North Korea has still not reported any cases of the deadly pandemic, which continues to claim victims around the world.

This month, a report by the Royal United Services Institute in London, found around 150 Chinese businesses had a central role in facilitating North Korean access to international markets.

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China were involved in around £2billion ($2.7billion) worth of shipments between 2014 and 2017, representing around 20 percent of the £10.6nillion ($13.9billion) value of North Korea’s trade during the same period.

The report found several co-located businesses which indicated the groups were front companies for North Korean interests.

It also found around 135 of the companies were still registered as active on Chinese corporate databases, the Financial Times reported.

Last month, four US government agencies raised alarms about a group of “North Korean government cyber actors”.

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It was reported, the group, known as the BeagleBoyz, targeted cash from ATMs in cyber attacks leaving backs’ computer systems inoperable.

However, the fallout of coronavirus is likely to impact North Korea’s overseas business interests.

Andrei Lankov, a North Korean expert at Koomin University in Seoul, said: “All these types of networks are hit less severely than other kinds of economic activity, but it doesn’t mean they are not shrinking.”

Mr Lankov added that while the country faces economic hardship, China would not let the situation deteriorate into a political crisis.

He continued: “They will just send enough food just to make sure North Koreans will be malnourished but not starving to death.

“They will send enough fuel, just to make sure vital production can continue.

“They will send basic supplies, just to make sure that North Koreans will not get angry and got out on the streets.”

Mr Lankov believes Beijing will support North Korea as part of a strategic decision against the US.

Tensions between the US and China have intensified over recent months following the outbreak of coronavirus.

The two nations have also hit out at each other over military activity in the South China Sea region.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for other nations to counter against China’s dominance in the highly contest area.

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