BEIJING/SHENYANG, March 21 (Yonhap) -- Apparent efforts by Pyongyang and Beijing to bypass United Nations sanctions on North Korea appear to have gotten sophisticated, sources said Thursday, as the United States is moving to toughen its own sanctions on the North after last month's summit in Hanoi.
According to the sources, China and North Korea have recently agreed on joint operation of some of their maritime transport routes, which have been suspected by sanctions monitors of being channels for smuggling.
It has been known that Bohai Ferry, a Chinese shipping company, recently signed a strategic alliance agreement with North Korea's western port city of Nampo, which calls for its exclusive operation of maritime routes between Nampo and Yantai and between Nampo and Dalian, the sources said.
To that end, a vice mayor of Nampo visited China earlier this week for negotiations with Bohai, they said, noting both sides agreed to push to open freight and cruise transport routes between the North Korean port and China's Shandong and Liaoning peninsulas at an appropriate time.
Chinese financial media have reported that Bohai Ferry has acquired the exclusive rights to the maritime routes between China and North Korea.
The purported agreement drew attention, as the U.N. sanctions committee has pointed to the Dalian-Nampo route as a typical smuggling channel meant to bypass international sanctions on the North. The committee suspected Nampo of being a base for illegal oil transshipments to North Korea.
"The maritime route deal between North Korea and China can be a problem, particularly at a sensitive time amid the stalled denuclearization talks between the North and the U.S.," a source said.
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