It has been no secret that Russia and China have both worked diligently to present the façade of working toward a denuclearized Korean peninsula, while simultaneously bolstering support for Kim Jong un’s North Korean regime in the face of what both nations construe as American geopolitical bullying.  While both Russia and China likely do favor a non-nuclear North Korea, concerns about the stability of Kim’s regime, and in turn, the physical and financial stability of the region, have placed both nations in the precarious position of having to support Kim through often unofficial channels.

More than a month ago, the United States issued a series of sanctions against organizations and individuals that were guilty of siphoning money into Kim Jong un’s regime despite a number of U.S. and UN levied sanctions.  To no one’s surprise, the vast majority of those measures were taken against people and companies inside Russia and China, despite their formal government’s claims of support for a new round of UN sanctions.  China and Russia have both seen an uptick in non-military trade with North Korea since tensions between Kim’s Regime and Trump’s administration have started to boil over, and even North Korea’s new Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missiles have been seen being transported around the nation on new, Chinese sourced timber trucks that China promises they thought would only be used to ship wood.

Not to be outdone, bilateral trade between North Korea and Russia nearly doubled in the first quarter of 2017, now accounting for $31.4 million, which, to be fair, is still a drop in the bucket compared to bilateral trade with China, which accounts for 90% of North Korea’s import and export markets.  Russia has also refused to send tens of thousands of North Korean laborers home; workers whose pay is sent back to North Korea by way of Kim’s government, and accounts for a valuable influx of cash for Kim’s pet projects.

China recently announced that they were forcing North Korean businesses to close their doors on Chinese soil, a move intended to project China’s support for UN sanctions designed to financially strangle Kim’s nuclear ambitions, but that move did nothing to bar North Korean goods from being sold within Chinese based businesses, which likely accounts for a larger portion of overall export trade coming from North Korea.