By Takayuki Nakagawa in Shenyang, China
Chinese public security authorities arrested a senior North Korean spy in Dandong City, Liaoning Province, near the China-DPRK border in early June, it was learned on June 11. A substantial amount of cash was seized during the arrest. This was revealed by several sources familiar with China-North Korea relations.
The arrest was made a few days after Workers’ Party of Korea Vice Chairman Ri Su-yong returned home from Beijing on June 2, following his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. At this meeting, Ri reiterated North Korea’s policy to pursue its nuclear programs. Some say the arrest was meant to put pressure on North Korea to take steps to denuclearize.
According to an informed source, Chinese security officials raided the spy’s home in the middle of the night in early June and took him into custody. It is not known what he was charged with, but around 30 million yuan (approximately 490 million yen) in cash, gold bars, and other items were seized during the raid. The North Korean embassy was subsequently notified of the arrest. North Korea sent officials to China to verify the facts but, as of June 11, it is not known if the spy has been released.
This North Korean official had been stationed in Dandong for the past few years and was known to be the “motherland’s representative” or “highest responsible official” among North Korean traders. He was allegedly involved in the smuggling of goods banned under UN sanctions on North Korea.
It is very unusual for China to arrest this kind of senior official. Another informed source pointed out that China has recently been reinforcing its crackdown on illicit trade between China and North Korea and analyzed the matter as China putting pressure on North Korea through “strict implementation of UN sanctions.”