China sent home more than half of the North Koreans working in the country in 2018, according to an unpublished report sent by Beijing to the United Nations Security Council. The one-page document, seen by Reuters on Tuesday, was submitted to the council’s North Korea sanctions committee in compliance with a 2017 resolution that demanded the repatriation of all North Korean workers by the end of this year to stop them earning foreign currency for leader Kim Jong-un’s government. Beijing’s report did not give an exact figure for the number of workers sent home, but a similar document produced by Russia said it repatriated nearly two-thirds of about 30,000 North Koreans working in the country last year. The United States said it believed Pyongyang was earning more than US$500 million a year from nearly 100,000 of its citizens working abroad, of which about 50,000 were in China and 30,000 in Russia. The UN Security Council has steadily toughened sanctions on North Korea since 2006 to choke funding for its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. US President Donald Trump and Kim have met twice in the past year in a bid to negotiate denuclearisation. The December 2017 UN resolution required countries to report to the sanctions committee this month on all North Korean workers sent home in 2018 and, if applicable, “an explanation of why less than half of such” had been repatriated. Path to resuming US-North Korean negotiations runs through Beijing Russia reported that in 2018 the number of North Koreans “with valid work permits in the Russian Federation decreased from 30,023 to 11,490 persons”. Key North Korean ally China said it had repatriated “more than half of the total DPRK nationals earning income” using the short form of the restive state’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “China will continue earnestly implementing its international obligations, carry out the repatriation work in an orderly manner and complete the repatriation on time,” wrote China’s Mission to the United Nations, adding it did not want the report to be made public. The United Arab Emirates told the Security Council committee it had sent home more than half of the North Koreans earning money in the country in 2018, repatriating 823 people. It did not say how many North Koreans were still in the country. Poland reported that in December 2017, 451 North Koreans were working there and that the number had dropped to 37 by the end of last year. Some of those 37 might have already left Poland by crossing the European Union’s external border in another country, it said. How long can North Korea ‘muddle through’ its economic woes? In 2015, Marzuki Darusman, a UN human rights investigator, said the North Koreans abroad worked mainly in mining, logging, textiles and construction. The reports submitted by China and Russia to the sanctions committee did not specify what industries had employed the North Koreans. New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a 2017 report that “the treatment of North Korean workers overseas falls short of international labour standards, with no right to freedom of association or expression, control by minders who limit freedom of movement and access to information from the outside world, long working hours and no right to refuse overtime”. North Korea has said its labourers were working abroad legally and were not mistreated or forced to go.