A cargo ship is loaded with coal during the opening ceremony of a new dock at the North Korean port of Rajin in 2014. (Reuters file photo)
NEW YORK: North Korea continues to make money by skirting UN Security Council resolutions, with its exports of banned commodities generating at least US$270 million since February, according to a classified report of a United Nations panel obtained by Kyodo News.
After China’s suspension of coal imports from the North in February, Pyongyang “has been rerouting coal to other member states including Malaysia and Vietnam”, the report said.
The UN midterm report was compiled by a panel of experts,made up of representatives from the Security Council’s five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — as well as from Japan, South Korea and South Africa. It is expected to be officially released soon.
“The DPRK continued to violate sectoral sanctions through the export of almost all of the commodities prohibited in the resolutions, generating at least $270 million in revenue,” the document said, referring to the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
It has also made shipments through third countries, thus “deliberately using indirect channels” to evade sanctions.
The combined effects of “lax enforcement” of existing sanctions and Pyongyang’s “evolving evasion techniques” are seen as undermining the goals of getting the North to abandon all weapons of mass destruction and put a stop to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, it said.
The report mentioned the “widespread presence” of North Koreans in Africa and the Middle East, particularly in Syria, and their suspected involvement in “prohibited activities such as trade in surface-to-air missile systems”.
Also referenced was Malaysia’s report in March to an international body regarding “the use of a chemical warfare agent, VX” in the alleged assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He died as the result of a suspected attack with nerve gas in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb 13.
Multiple rounds of sanctions have been imposed on Pyongyang since 2006, when it conducted its first underground nuclear test. The North Korean government has continued to carry out banned activities, which also include launching ballistic missiles, ever since.
Under the latest Security Council resolution of Aug 5, measures were taken in an attempt to restrict the flow of funds for the North’s nuclear programme by slashing its $3-billion in annual export revenue by a third. Bans are now in place on exports of North Korean coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood.
Since March 2, 2016, North Korea has registered nearly 70 vessels — a 44% increase over 18 months. At the same time, however, many ships have been moved from its international trading fleet to its “domestic fleet”, an unusual development given that the nation straddles two coasts and its ships must travel through international waters.
It is believed that by using the domestic category, North Korea could “conceal critical vessel recognition data and circumvent international maritime law”, the report says.
The panel is also looking into other forms of revenue, including the North’s leasing of its embassy properties for commercial purposes in countries such as Bulgaria, Germany, Poland and Romania.