UN: North Korea enhanced nuclear and ballistic missile programs in breach of sanctions

New UN report finds North Korea continued to enhance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs last year in breach of sanctions.

Ben Ariel ,

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with military officials
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with military officials
Reuters

North Korea continued to enhance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs last year in breach of United Nations sanctions, according to a confidential UN report seen by Reuters on Monday.

The country also illicitly imported refined petroleum and exported some $370 million worth of coal with the help of Chinese barges, the report said.

The 67-page report to the UN Security Council North Korea sanctions committee, which is due to be made public next month, comes as the United States tries to revive stalled denuclearization talks with North Korea.

“In 2019, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) did not halt its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which it continued to enhance, in violation of Security Council resolutions,” the independent UN sanctions monitors wrote, according to Reuters.

“Despite its extensive indigenous capability it uses illicit external procurement for some components and technology.”

North Korea has been subjected to UN sanctions since 2006. They have been strengthened by the 15-member Security Council over the years in a bid to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The sanctions monitors said that in a fresh bid to evade sanctions, North Korea had started to export millions of tons of commodities - banned since 2017 - using barges.

“According to a Member State, the DPRK exported 3.7 million metric tons of coal between January and August 2019, with an estimated value of $370 million,” the report said.

“According to the Member State, most DPRK coal exports, an estimated 2.8 million metric tons, were conducted via ship-to-ship transfers from DPRK-flagged vessels to Chinese local barges,” it added.

The unidentified member state told the monitors that barges had delivered coal directly to three ports in China’s Hangzhou Bay and also to facilities along the Yangtze river.

The UN monitors also said a member state reported that North Korea had exported at least one million tons of sand from river dredging, worth at least $22 million, to Chinese ports.

China, a close ally of North Korea, has repeatedly said it is implementing UN sanctions.

In a statement, China’s mission to the United Nations described any accusations against China as “baseless.”

“On the implementation of the Security Council resolutions concerning the DPRK, China has always faithfully and seriously fulfilled its international obligations and sustained huge losses and tremendous pressure in the process,” a spokesperson for China’s UN mission said, according to Reuters.

The report follows North Korea’s decision last month to abandon its commitments to halt nuclear and missile testing.

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said last month the United States had opened channels of communication and expressed hope Kim would follow through on denuclearization commitments he made at summits with US President Donald Trump.

However, Ju Yong Chol, a counselor at North Korea’s mission to the UN in Geneva, rejected the call and said that over the past two years, his country had halted nuclear tests and test firing of inter-continental ballistic missiles “in order to build confidence with the United States”.

But the United States had responded by conducting dozens of joint military exercises with South Korea on the divided peninsula and by imposing sanctions, he charged.

Russia and China have raised concerns that sanctions were harming North Korean civilians, and have expressed hope that easing some restrictions could help break the deadlock in nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

But the United States, France and Britain said now is not the time to consider lifting sanctions.

The UN report said North Korea conducted 13 missile tests last year, launching at least 25 missiles, including new types of short range and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

“It continued to develop infrastructure and capacity for its missile program,” the monitors said, according to Reuters.




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