Nov. 23 (UPI) -- North Korea may be running low on structural steel for construction and has instructed its trading enterprises to increase imports from China, according to a recent press report.
The news comes at a time when a United Nations Security Council sanctions committee may be planning to exempt a joint survey of an inter-Korea railroad.
A China-based source told Radio Free Asia on Thursday the Kim Jong Un regime has told North Korean traders assigned to bring in foreign currency earnings to "put all their efforts" into procuring steel.
"Cadres in the trade sector are under enormous pressure because it is a special mandate from the party center [Kim Jong Un]," the source said, adding North Korea is importing steel for "large scale national construction projects" including at the Wonsan-Kalma district and in Samjiyon County.
"The construction is being delayed for lack of steel," the source said.
Construction steel is under international sanctions, and cannot be imported from China publicly.
"No matter how much the center pushes for steel imports, it is not easy to secure steel from China, unless payment is made in advance," RFA's source said. "Construction in the Wonsan tourism district and in Samjiyon will be inevitably delayed."
A source in Dandong, China, involved in trade with North Korea said a North Korean trading executive had recently called to procure 800 tons of steel, according to RFA.
Sanctions have mostly blocked an inter-Korea plan to conduct a joint railroad survey in the North, but the United Nations Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee could be making an exception.
The committee approved a sanctions exemption for the joint study on Friday, an unidentified South Korean diplomatic source told Yonhap.