Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein
The New York Times reports that North Korean ships that would usually transport goods to Chinese ports are now idle in Nampo:
The Royal United Services Institute satellite analysis shows that on March 3, 139 ships were idled in the Nampo area, which includes the anchorage and several ports, up from 50 ships a month earlier.
The fleet includes vessels previously implicated in sanctions evasion operations, which are often tracked through satellite imagery and aerial or ground surveillance by other states, independent research groups and the United Nations.
The institute’s analysis said the idled ships included some of the “most active and scrutinized oil tankers” used for the illicit import of refined petroleum products such as fuel. For example, the oil tanker New Regent, which had been spotted making unreported deliveries as recently as January 2020, and twice in 2019, according to the United Nations, was seen in Nampo in multiple satellite images. Other ships, too, have been floating unused for weeks, according to satellite imagery provided by Planet Labs, an earth-imaging company in San Francisco, and Maxar Technologies Inc., a space technology company in Westminster, Colo.
(Source: Christopher Koettl, “Coronavirus Is Idling North Korea’s Ships, Achieving What Sanctions Did Not,” New York Times, March 26, 2020.)
As the article points out, coronavirus really is doing what sanctions never fully could. It seems that the only fully confirmed mode of goods transportation between North Korea and China right now are trains (judging by the Rodong pictures of Corona prevention activities), and we don’t know how often they run.