NEW YORK – North Korea has continued to make money by skirting U.N. Security Council resolutions, and its exports of banned commodities has generated at least $270 million since February, according to a classified report compiled by a U.N. panel and obtained by Kyodo News.
After China suspended coal imports from the North in February, Pyongyang “has been rerouting coal to other member states including Malaysia and Vietnam,” the report said.
The U.N. midterm report was compiled by the so-called panel of experts made up of representatives from the Security Council’s five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — and Japan, South Korea and South Africa.
The official version is expected to be 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 says, referring to the North by its 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 “lax enforcement” of existing sanctions and Pyongyang’s “evolving evasion techniques” are seen as undermining the U.N.’s goal of getting North Korea to abandon all weapons of mass destruction and abandoning 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, widely believed to be the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The North Korean national was killed by the highly lethal nerve gas during an assault in 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 been carrying out banned activities, including atomic and ballistic missile tests, ever since.
Under the latest UNSC resolution, dated Aug. 5, measures were taken in an attempt to restrict the flow of funds for the North’s nuclear program by slashing its $3 billion 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 percent increase over 18 months. At the same time, however, many ships have been moved from the North’s international trading fleet to its “domestic fleet,” an unusual move, 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 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.