UN experts report wide-ranging violations by North Korea

Pyongyang used clandestine shipments to exceed fuel quotas, attempted to sell arms, and continues to evade financial sanctions, new report says

North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi shake hands at a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Singapore, August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Feline Lim
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North Korea has not stopped its nuclear and missile programmes and is violating UN sanctions including by "a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products", according to a new report.

A summary of the report by experts monitoring UN sanctions against North Korea, which was sent to the Security Council Friday night, said Pyongyang was also violating sanctions by transferring coal at sea and flouting an arms embargo and financial sanctions.

The panel of experts said North Korea attempted to sell small arms and light weapons and other military equipment via foreign intermediaries, including Syrian arms traffickers, to Houthi rebels in Yemen, as well as to Libya and Sudan. The report also said North Korea had continued military co-operation with Syria, in breach of UN sanctions.

The panel said it was investigating sanctioned individuals, companies and other entities in Asia that clandestinely procured centrifuges for North Korea's nuclear programme and attempted to sell a wide range of military equipment to governments and armed groups in the Middle East and Africa.

The Security Council imposed sanctions on North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006 and has made them tougher and tougher in response to further nuclear tests and its increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile programme.

Many diplomats and analysts credit the sanctions, which have sharply cut North Korea's exports and imports, with helping promote the thaw in relations between North Korea and South Korea as well as the June meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

But the report said North Korea "has not stopped its nuclear and missiles programmes" and continues to defy the sanctions resolutions.

The experts said ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, oil and coal involve "increasingly sophisticated evasion techniques".

These include turning off Automatic Identification Systems, which are required to be on at all times under international regulations, physically disguising North Korean tankers, using small unregistered vessels, illegally changing names, carrying out night transfers and using additional vessels to trans-ship cargo.


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The United States said last month that North Korea was smuggling refined petroleum products into the country beyond the quota of 500,000 barrels per year allowed under UN sanctions.

US documents sent to the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea cite 89 instances between January 1 and May 30, in which North Korean tankers likely delivered refined products "illicitly procured" via ship-to-ship transfers.

The documents say that even if each tanker delivered only one-third of its listed capacity, the total volume would be above the 500,000-barrel quota. If loaded at around 90 per cent, the US said the tankers would have delivered nearly 1.4 million barrels of refined products to North Korea, almost triple the quota.

The experts said if the report is accurate, North Korea is violating sanctions and all countries "would have to immediately halt all such transfers" to North Korea.

As for UN financial sanctions, the report said they were among the most poorly implemented and evaded measures.

The experts said individuals empowered to act for North Korean financial institutions operate in at least five countries, which were not named, "with seeming impunity".

They said accounts closed in the European Union to comply with sanctions were transferred to accounts at financial institutions in Asia.

North Korea is also using overseas companies and individuals to obscure income-generating activities for the government, the panel said. And the experts' investigation of more than 200 joint ventures and/or co-operatives turned up a number that violated UN sanctions resolutions by maintaining links with companies and entities under sanctions.

The experts said North Korean diplomats continue to play "a key role in sanctions evasion", including by controlling bank accounts in multiple countries and holding accounts in the name of family members and front companies.