N. Korea 'made $370m in exports since Feb, evading UN sanctions'

This picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on Aug 12 shows North Korean youth, workers and trade union members holding a rally to protest against the UN Security Council's "sanctions resolution" at the compound of the
This picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on Aug 12 shows North Korean youth, workers and trade union members holding a rally to protest against the UN Security Council's "sanctions resolution" at the compound of the Monument to Party Founding in Pyongyang on Aug 11, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK • Millions of dollars are still flowing into North Korea, which has bypassed United Nations sanctions and generated at least US$270 million (S$370 million) for exports of its banned commodities, Japan's Kyodo News reported.

To get around China's suspension of coal imports from the North in February, Pyongyang "has been rerouting coal to other member states, including Malaysia and Vietnam", said a classified report compiled by a UN panel and obtained by Kyodo News.

The mid-term report was put together by a panel of experts from the five Security Council permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - and Japan, South Korea and South Africa.

The report's official version is expected to be released soon.

"The DPRK (North Korea) continued to violate sectoral sanctions through the export of almost all of the commodities prohibited in the resolutions, generating at least US$270 million in revenue," it said.

The North has evaded sanctions by making shipments through third countries.

The report noted that "lax enforcement" of existing sanctions and Pyongyang's "evolving evasion techniques" look to have undermined the UN's aim of getting North Korea to give up all weapons of mass destruction, and its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The report said that North Koreans had a "widespread presence" in Africa and the Middle East, particularly in Syria.

"These are suspected to be involved in prohibited activities such as trade in surface-to-air missile systems," Kyodo News reported.

Under the latest UN Security Council resolution dated Aug 5, measures were taken in a bid to curb the flow of funds for the North's nuclear programme by slashing its US$3 billion annual export revenue by a third.

There are now bans on exports of North Korean coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood.

North Korea has registered nearly 70 vessels since March 2 last year, a 44 per cent increase over 18 months. But it has also moved many ships from its international trading fleet to its domestic fleet, an unusual move, as the North straddles two coasts and its ships must travel through international waters. This could be a way to "conceal critical vessel recognition data and circumvent international maritime law".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2017, with the headline 'N. Korea 'made $370m in exports since Feb, evading UN sanctions''. Print Edition | Subscribe