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Last Updated Sunday April 22 2018 12:13 PM IST

UN ban a farce? N Korea exported goods worth millions during the ban

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Kim Jong-Un Kim Jong Un gave the UN grand slip, continuing his export with Asian countries: File photo

United Nations: North Korea illegally exported coal, iron and other commodities worth at least $270 million to China and other countries including India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka in the six-month period ending in early August in violation of U.N. sanctions, UN experts say.

The experts monitoring sanctions said in a report released yesterday that Kim Jong Un's government continues to flout sanctions on commodities as well as an arms embargo and restrictions on shipping and financial activities.

They said North Korea is also reportedly continuing prohibited nuclear activities with weapons-grade fissile material production at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, construction and maintenance at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, and at a uranium mine in Pyongsan.

The eight-member panel of experts said it is also investigating the widespread presence of North Koreans in Africa and the Middle East, particularly in Syria, 'including their involvement in prohibited activities.'

The experts said one inquiry is into 'reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation' between Syria and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the country's official name.

They said this includes activities on Syrian Scud missile programs and 'maintenance and repair of Syrian surface-to-air missiles (SAM) air defense systems.'

The panel noted that two unnamed countries reported intercepting shipments destined for Syria. It did not identify the contents and said Syria has yet to respond to its inquiries.

The 111-page report was written before North Korea's sixth and most powerful nuclear test last Sunday and its latest launch of a powerful new intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan.

It was made public two days before the United States has called for a vote on a new sanctions resolution. The original US draft would impose the toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea including banning all oil and natural gas exports to the country and freezing all foreign financial assets of the government and its leader Kim Jong Un.

The experts said implementation of existing sanctions 'lags far behind what is necessary to achieve the core goal of denuclearization' of the Korean peninsula.

They blamed 'lax enforcement' of sanctions coupled North Korea's 'evolving evasion techniques' for undermining the achievement of this goal which would see the North abandon all weapons of mass destruction.

On the export of commodities -- a key source of foreign exchange for the DPRK -- the experts said that following China's suspension of coal imports from the North in February, the DPRK has been rerouting coal to other countries including Malaysia and Vietnam.

"The panel's investigations reveal that the DPRK is deliberately using indirect channels to export prohibited commodities, evading sanctions," the report said.

The panel said imports of DPRK coal, iron and iron ore violate UN sanctions unless the countries have received an exemption.

Between December 2016 and May 2017, for example, the DPRK exported over $79 million of iron ore to China, the report said. And between October 2016 and May 2017, it exported iron and steel products to Egypt, China, France, India, Ireland and Mexico valued at $305,713.

There are no exemptions for importing silver, copper, zinc, nickel and gold from the DPRK. And since December 2016, the experts said China, Sri Lanka, and India imported one or more of these minerals in violation of sanctions.

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The opinions expressed here do not reflect those of Malayala Manorama. Legal action under the IT Act will be taken against those making derogatory and obscene statements.

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