US commission pushing Biden administration to halt imports of Chinese seafood linked to North Korean labor

The latest letter adds to calls for action in the wake of an Outlaw Ocean Project report
U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) in his role as chair of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China
U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) in his role as chair of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China
4 Min

The U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calling on the officials' two departments to collaborate in determining whether seafood processed in China using North Korean labor is making its way into the U.S. supply chain. 

The letter adds to earlier calls from the commission for federal action against Chinese companies credibly accused of using forced labor in seafood processing. In December, the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party issued its own report recommending special trade status for the country.

A letter sent by U.S. Representative and Commission Chair Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) and U.S. Senator and Co-Chair Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) said the presence of seafood processed by North Korean labor in the U.S. seafood supply chain could mean U.S. consumers are inadvertently “funding North Korea’s nuclear saber-rattling.”

The new call for action stems directly from the Outlaw Ocean Project’s recent report detailing how seafood processed in China by workers from North Korea could be making its way into the U.S. supply chain.

“North Korean labor is profitable to China’s seafood industry in part because of imports to the United States and other countries. Given China’s footprint in the global seafood supply chain, American consumers are unwittingly exposed to products likely tainted with such labor,” the letter from the commission states. “There is extensive and publicly available documentation of U.S. imports from the companies identified in The New Yorker article."

The letter points out that under U.S. law, it is illegal to import any goods made with North Korean labor. Specifically, the 2017 Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act imposes sanctions against any company or individual associating with an “adversarial” country like North Korea. 

The Outlaw Ocean report named multiple companies in its report on North Korean labor in China’s seafood supply chain: Dalian Haiqing Food, Dandong Galicia Seafood, Dandong Hailong Foodstuff, Dandong Omeca Food, Dandong Taifeng Foodstuff, Dandong Taihua Foodstuff, Dandong Yuanyi Refined Seafoods, Donggang Haimeng Foodstuff, Donggang Jinhui Foodstuff, and Donggang Luyuan Food. 

“The employment of North Koreans violates United Nation’s Security Council Resolution 2397, which prohibits third countries from using North Korean laborers,” the letter states. “According to U.N. General Assembly Resolution 78/218, the U.N. prohibits employment of North Koreans to stop foreign currency transfers to North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un, who uses the wages garnered from workers to fund ‘its illicit nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.’”

The letter makes a number of specific requests for Blinken and the Department of Homeland Security, including requiring an ... 

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