Chinese authorities will be using new technology at the border with North Korea to screen trucks carrying cargo to and from China, replacing the x-ray scanners with state-of-the-art equipment more effective at finding smuggled contraband, sources say.
“New modern cargo inspection equipment is being installed at the entrance to customs here in Dandong,” a source from the Chinese border town told RFA’s Korean Service on Nov 26. “They’re going to use it to inspect cargo trucks from North Korea, and they began installing it about a month ago.”
“When they finish installation, every single truck, whether Chinese or Korean, must be inspected at the scanning station,” the source said. “When the truck enters the inspection center, the machine will automatically scan the truck and show its cargo on a screen. It will be much easier to detect prohibited trade items,” the source added.
“Dandong customs has been scanning trucks with outdated x-ray scanners,” the source said. “This method was unable to detect illegal goods hidden between legal items or packaged in fake boxes. But these new scanners are the newest available, so it’s going to be difficult for anything illegal to slip through the cracks,” said the source.
The new emphasis on controlling the flow of goods in and out of North Korea at the Chinese border is a stark contrast to the recent past, before U.S. sanctions aimed at putting a halt to North Korea’s nuclear program were put in place.
“In the 2000s when North Korea and China had a more active trading relationship, Dandong customs officers would only check documents for details of a shipment and didn’t even scan the truck with x-rays,” another source, from North Korea’s North Pyongan province, said.
“Until the early 2010s, customs declarations were just a mere formality. They only would stop the trucks that were over-loaded,” said the source.
“Since the U.S. began to impose strong economic sanctions in April last year, Dandong started being more thorough in their inspections,” the source revealed.
“They were especially concerned with finding items that could be used for making weapons, like certain metallic items and chemicals. They also started opening suspicious boxes after x-ray scans, and this sometimes caused trouble with North Korean traders,” the source said.
“But being so thorough with the inspections was causing delays,” the source said, adding, “Many of the trucks were unable to make their deliveries in Sinuiju on time. This new tech will shorten the time it takes to inspect each truck, meaning fewer delays.”
Reported by Hyemin Son for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.