Thanks to Chinese tourists North Korea earns $44 million a year in foreign currency.
According to tourism sources, Chinese tourists are still visiting Pyongyang from China’s border city Dandong.
The development is despite apparent unofficial halting of such tours, just ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to China in November.
According to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter, a group of 40 Chinese tourists left from the border city of Dandong to Pyongyang, a sign that Beijing is allowing and supporting the flow of foreign currency to impoverished North Korea.
“This is the largest group to go in from Dandong since the curb,” said a tour operator while adding that the tourists will travel by train into North Korea for a four-day tour.
When asked for comment, China’s foreign ministry said they did “not understand the situation.”
Incidentally, tourism to North Korea is not banned by the United Nations and is one of the few remaining avenues left open for North Korea to earn foreign currency.
According to the Korea Maritime Institute, a South Korean think-tank, North Korea makes around $44 million annually from tourism.
As per Simon Cockerell, head of Beijing-based Koryo Tours which organizes travel to North Korea, 3 to 4 bus loads of Chinese tourists have gone to Pyongyang in mid-November.
“But I‘m not sure where they entered from or what visas they were on,” said Cockerell.
“If you have a visa to North Korea, it doesn’t say where you can and can’t go. So once you enter into Sinuiju or Rason, you could travel onwards to Pyongyang. The North Koreans wouldn’t care,” said Cockerell.
Beijing has been careful to never publicly announce a ban on Chinese tourists visiting Pyongyang and has strongly opposed unilateral sanctions, saying such a move will undermine U.N. unity.
However, day before U.S President Donald Trump’s first official visit to China in this November, the Dandong Tourism Bureau had told Chinese tour operators based in Dandong to halt trips to North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang.
Thanks to U.N sanctions, China’s trade with its ally, North Korea, has fallen to their lowest levels.
Despite China repeated statement that it is rigorously enforcing U.N. resolutions aimed at reining in its ally, Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programs, the pace of North Korea’s nuclear missile program has accelerated.
On November 28, Pyongyang reported that it had tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) missile that is capable of delivering nuclear warheads in the U. S mainland.