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BEIJING – Chinese customs authorities have seized a stash of vanadium, a strategic metal used to strengthen steel, hidden in fruit boxes on a truck bound for North Korea, an official said Tuesday.
Vanadium has defense and nuclear applications — alloys with vanadium are used in missile casings — but it was not clear what the stash would be used for.
The seizure comes as the United States has been rallying international support for strict enforcement of a new U.N. resolution adopted to punish North Korea for its nuclear test on May 25. The sanctions seek to deprive the North of financing and material for its weapons program, and allows inspections of suspect cargo in ports and on the high seas.
The metal was found during a routine check of vehicles at the China-North Korea border on Monday, said a duty officer at the customs department of Dandong city in northeastern Liaoning province.
The officer, who would only give his surname, Chang, said the stash was worth about 200,000 yuan ($29,300).
He refused to provide further details, but the Dandong News Web site posted a photograph of border agents inspecting the seizure, contained in 68 bottles in cardboard boxes. The stash weighed 154 pounds (70 kilograms). The metal appeared to be in granular form.