North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may be under international sanctions – but that did not stop him turning up for a meeting with the US Secretary of State in what appeared to be a brand new Rolls-Royce.
The dictator arrived on Sunday for a working lunch with Mike Pompeo in a jet-black Phantom complete with darkened windows and the brand’s distinctive logo on its wheel hubs.
It is unclear how the vehicle, which would have cost at least £318,000 ($591,000), was transported to Pyongyang, given UN sanctions that ban items including cars.
“The sanctions regime has become a bit of a joke,” said Robert Dujarric, professor of international relations at the Japan campus of Temple University.
Even with restrictions in place Dujarric said evading them could be fairly simple, particularly as North Korea’s main ally is neighbouring China.
“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,” he added.
“The Phantom 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.” China and Russia have become increasingly vocal about relaxing sanctions – but the US insists they should stay in place until Kim fully dismantles his nuclear arsenal.
At three-way talks in Moscow on Tuesday deputy foreign ministers from North Korea, China and Russia agreed that “it is necessary to consider adjusting sanctions… at an appropriate time”, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement.
China first argued they should be relaxed last month after the US President, Donald Trump, and Kim held talks on the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
South Korea this week also said it was considering easing restrictions, but backed off after the US rejected the idea.
North Korea, sanctioned under multiple UN Security Council resolutions over its nuclear weapons programme, has repeatedly called for them to be rolled back after it halted tests.
Pyongyang has also agreed to allow international inspectors into those sites once US and North Korea officials agree on logistics.