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China Cashes in its North Korean Casino Chips

23 February 2005

HINA and NORTH KOREA -- As reported by the Asia Times: "North Korea's admission, or claim, that it has nuclear weapons may have stolen the headlines, but that's not the only regional problem in the bizarre nation that loves to keep the world guessing. It is also caught up in a rift with its closest friend, China, following the closure of a little-known casino that was an important income-earner for the impoverished Pyongyang regime.

"The entire clientele of the Hong Kong-owned Emperor casino was Chinese, so China's decision to ban its citizens from visiting the complex, situated not far from the Chinese border on North Korea's east coast, has caused a severe strain in relations between the two neighbors, even though they are officially close, 'like lips and teeth'.

"The ban comes as part of a general Chinese crackdown on gambling...

"...The ban on Chinese visiting the Emperor followed the discovery that a senior Chinese transport official had gambled away over 3.5 million yuan (US$420,000), much of which he had stolen from public funds, at the North Korean casino..."

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