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Kim Jong-un's new Rolls-Royce shows North Korean sanctions are 'a bit of a joke'

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 5 days ago Julian Ryall
Kim Jong-un standing next to a woman: A Rolls Royce is visible in the background as Kim Jong-un arrives for a working lunch with Mike Pompeo © State Department/Planet Pix via ZUMA Wire/REX A Rolls Royce is visible in the background as Kim Jong-un arrives for a working lunch with Mike Pompeo

Kim Jong-un attended his recent meeting with Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, in what appeared to be a new Rolls-Royce, in defiance of international sanctions as world powers fracture over restrictions against nuclear-armed North Korea.

Images of Kim arriving show a jet black Rolls-Royce with darkened windows and a distinctive logo on its wheel hubs. It is unclear how the vehicle would have been transported to Pyongyang given United Nations sanctions that ban items including luxury automobiles and motor vehicles.

"The sanctions regime has become a bit of a joke," said Robert Dujarric, a professor of international relations at the Japan campus of Temple University. 

China and Russia have become increasingly vocal about loosening sanctions, splitting with the US on the issue.

At three-way talks in Moscow, vice foreign ministers from North Korea, China and Russia agreed "it is necessary to consider adjusting sanctions...at an appropriate time," according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement.

China and Russia first made the call to ease sanctions at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York late September. China argued they should be relaxed in view of the “positive development of the past few months", while Russia said the start of negotiations needed to be followed by lifting of restrictions.

South Korea this week also said it was considering easing sanctions, but backed off the proposal after the US rejected the idea. The US has held strong on its views that sanctions should only disappear once North Korea has irreversibly denuclearised. 

North Korea, sanctioned under multiple UN Security Council resolutions for its nuclear weapons programme, has repeatedly called for them to be rolled back after it halted nuclear and missile tests. Pyongyang has also agreed to allow international inspectors into those sites once US and North Korea officials agree on logistics.

Even with sanctions in place Mr Dujarric said getting around them for some items could be fairly simple.

For instance, a North Korean operative could easily buy a car from Rolls-Royce in London and ship it to China, where it could be trucked over the land border, said Mr Dujarric. The Phantom, which starts at £318,120, is not military-grade technology and would not have raised eyebrows. 

“The Chinese authorities are not going to make a fuss over a car, even if they know it is going to Mr Kim himself”, Mr Dujarric told The Telegraph. China is North Korea's main ally.

“In any case, it is quite clear that the sanctions are beginning to fade and neither China nor Russia are doing the US any favours on that front for their own reasons," he added. 

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