Archive for » August 20th, 2017«

Solar panel sales to North Koreans soar in the border city of Dandong

Solar panels seen on the roof of a building in Dandong. At this Chinese border with North Korea, solar panel traders are shipping their products across the border by truck and boat, and greeting North Korean merchants in person at their stores. (Nicolas Asfouri / AFP)

DANDONG (AFP) – Traders from North Korea visit Yuan Huan’s shop in the Chinese border city of Dandong several times a month to place orders, bringing their own translators and wads of cash.

Yuan, manager of Sangle Solar Power, said sales to North Koreans have soared in the past two years, one of the border businesses still thriving despite growing US pressure for China to limit commerce with the Stalinist regime.

Since North Korea mostly relies on outdated generators, blackouts are common and solar panels are prized for their role as backup power.

Berkeley-based researchers at the Nautilus Institute estimated that at the end of 2014, about two percent of North Korea’s population had acquired solar panels.

And despite new United Nations sanctions further narrowing the categories of goods that can be traded with the hermit state this month, solar panels have remained off the growing blacklist.

Yuan’s shop offers a window into how Chinese traders do business with North Korea, a country with few allies and whose economy relies heavily on China’s patronage.

Every day, trucks filled with cargo cross the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge that connects Dandong to the North Korean city of Sinuiju.

After receiving orders from North Korean customers, Yuan drops off packages at a riverside depot, and a Chinese logistics company takes care of transport across the waterway.

Some of her North Korean customers place orders by phone, but most prefer to make arrangements in person, she said.

“It is actually quite easy for traders to go back and forth. Some buy over 20 units at a time,” Yuan told AFP.

Several North Korean solar energy research and assembly plants have begun operation in recent years, according to domestic media reports, but Chinese panels appear to remain in high demand.

Last year, China exported 466,248 solar panels across the border, according to official figures from Beijing.

China on Tuesday started banning imports of iron, iron ore and seafood from North Korea as it implements the new UN sanctions, which could cost Pyongyang $1 billion per year and were imposed after its two intercontinental ballistic missile tests.

But in Dandong, where some 70 percent of trade between China and North Korea flows, solar panel merchants remain unfazed.

“It seems that overall, there are fewer North Korean traders coming over recently, but we’re not affected by what’s happening politically,” said Shi Zhiyong, manager of the Huang Ming Solar Power shop.

“In 2009, I started seeing more North Korean traders coming to the store and their numbers have only gone up since,” Shi told AFP.

Both Yuan and Shi said their best-selling items are rooftop units that provide hot water supply. These cost between 2,700 and 14,000 yuan ($400 and $2,060).

The purchases by households, offices and factories show that many urban residents have adequate disposable income, Johns Hopkins University researcher Curtis Melvin told AFP.

“Aside from a few high-profile cases, such as the increase in fuel prices in North Korea or temporary suspension of coal exports to China, we haven’t seen much evidence that (previous) sanctions have had a tremendously negative effect on North Korea’s economy,” Melvin added.

Sino-US relations have soured as President Donald Trump has pressed Beijing to step up pressure on North Korea, complaining about their continuing trade.

In the first half, trade between China and North Korea increased 10.5 percent to $2.5 billion, compared to the same period last year.

The Chinese government has defended its trade with North Korea, noting that the UN sanctions do not apply to all commerce — though AFP journalists recently visited Dandong shops that sold jewellery made with banned North Korean gold.

An array of goods flow both ways.

Shops along Dandong’s waterfront offer North Korean ginseng, dried mushrooms and even dried ants, which are meant to be good for joint pain, according to traditional Chinese medicine.

Marc Lanteigne, senior lecturer at Massey University Center for Defence and Security Studies, said China has frequently “drawn connections between peace-building and combating poverty, and stressed that complete economic isolation of North Korea is both counter-productive and dangerous.”

(Joanna Chiu / AFP)

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Marinucci joins CBMM’s Charity Boat Donation program

ST. MICHAELS — Dominic Marinucci of Ridgely has joined the staff of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels as a seasonal boat cleaner with the Charity Boat Donation Program. CBMM’s Charity Boat Donation Program accepts and sells all manner of craft year-round to support the nonprofit’s education, curatorial, and boatbuilding programs.

Marinucci receives vocational services from Benedictine Adult Services Program. For more than 55 years, the mission of Benedictine has been to help people with developmental disabilities achieve their greatest potential. The Benedictine Open Community/Adult Services Program supports persons ages 21 and over with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Participants explore vocational interests, engage in job development, and build skills in industries of choice within a supportive environment designed to assist in finding competitive, integrated employment in the community.

“CBMM’s partnership with Benedictine reflects our mission to better support like-minded Eastern Shore organizations focused on improving the well-being of our citizens,” said CBMM President Kristen Greenaway.

Throughout the year, CBMM’s Charity Boat Donation Program Manager Todd Taylor and Program Associate Joshua Mills travel up and down the East Coast working with boat owners, yacht brokers, marinas, boatyards, and other donors and potential buyers, to support CBMM through boat donations and sales. CBMM is hosting its 20th annual Charity Boat Auction on Saturday, Sept. 2, with proceeds benefiting the children and adults served by CBMM.

“One hundred percent of the revenue generated by each donated boat sale goes directly toward helping CBMM’s educational programs and restoring and preserving its historic structures and boats,” Taylor said. “We sell donated boats all year long, with each sale helping CBMM do great things for the people we serve.”

To learn more about our Charity Boat Donation Program, CBMM’s current list of donated boats for sale is at For more information on Benedictine School, visit

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Glenville site under consideration for cleanup

GLENVILLE — State officials are accepting comments on a proposal to clean up a brownfield at Mohawk Avenue and Maritime Drive in the hamlet of Alplaus.

The Department of Environmental Conservation is considering a proposal from Prime Mohawk LLC for the cleanup.

According to a document filed with the town of Glenville last month, the Cohoes firm has proposed a waterfront development district along the Mohawk River to include about 160 residential rental units, 31 single family lots, 37 townhouses, a clubhouse and pool, public playground, basketball and tennis courts, a gazebo area, boat showroom and boat storage.

How to comment

Ways to comment on Brownfield Cleanup Program applications include:

Submitted them to site Project Manager Josh Haugh at NYSDEC, 1130 North Westcott Rd., Schenectady, NY 12306-2014;

Via email at

Calling 518-357-2008.

All comments must be submitted by Sept. 15.

Uses of the 87.4 acre former industrial park “appear to have resulted in the site contamination, including PCBs, heavy metals (and) petroleum,” among other hazards, according to the DEC.

A DEC summary of the site notes it is in a residential area and bordered by vacant land, with the Delaware and Hudson Railway to the north and the Mohawk River to the south. As well as three roads, the site has buildings used for a marina and industrial buildings occupied by tenants. Much of the land is open grassed area used for boat storage. The undeveloped portions of the property consist of woods and wetlands.

The property is a former industrial park used by General Electric Co. and the U.S. Navy for research and development. Two large buildings along the Mohawk River were hangars.

“There was a pumphouse along the Mohawk and north of Maritime Drive there was a substation, oil drum shed, uranium ore beds, fuel tanks, a pond and fuel lines,” the description states. It goes on to say that the GE and U.S. Navy uses appear to have resulted in the site contamination.

The site includes or included a marina, boat sales/repair, automotive repair and painting services,  landscaping business, steel welding shop and a fire truck repair business. The possible sources of contamination identified include a presence of suspected leaking underground fuel storage tanks, the former location of two transformer storage pads and electrical substations and two former 5,000-gallon above-ground diesel tanks, according to the DEC summary.

There have been four spill incidents associated with the site since 1989.

The groundwater at the site is between 6 and 10 feet below the surface.

The DEC said environmental and health assessment information is still being studied.
Current owners are listed as Swett-Kivort Corp. and WK Alplaus, LLC of Waterford.

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