United States is still trading with North Korea despite sanctions

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In this way, Americans may have been cluelessly subsidizing North Korea's nuclear program, which has largely been condemned by the worldwide community.

"Since North Korean media keep saying that the country is strong in spite of USA pressure exerted through sanctions, it can be speculated that the appearance of the returning workers is being directed by the North Korean regime", he said.

One of the products dealt with by the factories is Sea Queen - a fish brand sold exclusively at Aldi supermarkets. They must take the few steps to the factories in pairs or groups, with North Korean minders ensuring no one strays. And they are paid a fraction of their salaries, while the rest - as much as 70 percent - is taken by North Korea's government ... The scene along the China-North Korea border provides some clues.

It is a federal crime to import North Korean products into the United States no matter where they are made, according to a new law signed by President Trump over the summer.

North Koreans outsourced by their government are preparing seafood in China that ends up in American stores and homes, the report said. "Many North Korean laborers sent by the government to work overseas under bilateral contracts with foreign governments also face conditions of forced labor ..."

Analysts say the security of North Korea's missiles and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons would be a chief priority for China in the event of a major crisis involving its communist neighbor.

John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, the largest seafood trade association in the U.S., told AP his group was urging all of its companies to immediately re-examine their supply chains "to ensure that wages go to the workers, and are not siphoned off to support a unsafe dictator".

Every Western company involved that responded to AP's requests for comment said forced labor and potential support for North Korea's weapons program were unacceptable in their supply chains.

What's less clear is whether and under what conditions China would commit troops as an occupying force should North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's regime fall apart, Mr. Cheng said. They said they'd investigate, and some said they'd already cut off ties with suppliers.

Aldi said its United Kingdom stores are not linked to the factories. But the AP notes that the seafood could remain in the supply chain for "more than a year". Customs records indicate that Chicken of the Sea, owned by Thai Union, did business with sister companies of the Hunchun factories in another part of China.