North Korea is flouting UN sanctions on oil and gas, engaging in prohibited ballistic missile cooperation with Syria and Myanmar, and illegally exporting commodities that brought in nearly US$200 million in just nine months last year, a UN panel of experts said.
The experts said that Pyongyang is still able to access the global financial system through “deceptive practices combined with critical deficiencies in the implementation of financial sanctions.”
It also continues to engage in “widespread conventional arms deals and cyberoperations to steal military secrets,” the panel said.
The experts’ report to the UN Security Council, obtained on Friday by The Associated Press, said that North Korean diplomats “continue to play a key role in the country’s prohibited programs.”
The council has imposed increasingly tougher sanctions against North Korea in response to its nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
The latest resolution in December last year — in response to the launch of a ballistic missile that Pyongyang said is capable of reaching anywhere on the US mainland — sharply lowered limits on North Korea’s refined oil imports and authorized the inspection and seizure of ships suspected of smuggling banned items, including coal and oil, to and from the country.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that the sanctions ban well more than 90 percent of North Korea’s exports reported in 2016.
However, the panel said the expansion of UN sanctions has not been matched by the “political will,” international coordination and allocation of resources to implement them.
“This year could represent a critical window of opportunity before a potential miscalculation with disastrous implications for international peace and security,” the experts said.
The panel investigated North Korea’s ongoing ballistic missile cooperation with Syria and Myanmar.
It also investigated illegal ship-to-ship transfers of oil “comprising a multimillion-dollar business that is driving an international network of brokers and ship charterers, as well as unwitting global commodity trading companies and oil suppliers.”
North Korea also continued its illegal coal exports by combining deceptive navigation patterns, trans-shipment through third countries and fraudulent documentation “to obscure the origin of the coal.”
The report said that North Korea last year exported coal to China, Malaysia, South Korea, Russia and Vietnam in violation of sanctions.
It said “a network of foreign traders responsible for violations of the coal ban operates through numerous front companies” registered in Australia, the British Virgin Islands, China, Hong Kong, Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Seychelles and the UK.
North Korea last year also exported US$125 million of iron ore to China in violation of sanctions, they said.
The council has slapped sanctions on seven vessels for illegally transferring coal and petroleum.
The panel said stepped-up efforts are “crucial to curb these rampant illicit activities.”
The experts also cited “critical deficiencies” in implementing financial sanctions.
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