North Korea wriggled out of sanctions in 2017

Jun 2013
1. The following are excerpts from Colum Lynch's September 7, 2017 article headlined U.N. Report: Sanctions Aren?t Stopping North Korea?s Nuclear Program ? Foreign Policy

(Begin excepts)
Even as the United States spearheads efforts to strangle North Korea’s economy, Pyongyang is proving adept at evading one of the world’s most extensive sanctions regimes and raising sufficient illicit funds to bankroll a nuclear weapons program, according to U.N. experts.

“[A]s the sanctions regime expands, so does the scope of evasion,” noted a recent report by a U.N. panel of experts monitoring enforcement of U.N. sanctions against North Korea, which is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK. “Lax enforcement of the sanctions regime coupled with the DPRK’s evolving evasion techniques [is] undermining the goals of the resolutions that the DPRK abandon all WMD [weapons of mass destruction].”

The contest to contain North Korea has developed into an international game of whack-a-mole, with Pyongyang popping up with new money-making ventures for every enterprise shut down as a result of U.S. and U.N. sanctions. At a time when key states, including China, have stepped up sanctions enforcement — curbing imports of North Korean coal and reducing the size of diplomatic staff and bank accounts in their countries — Pyongyang has found ways to circumvent those measures.

“The actual implementation of the sanctions lags far behind what is necessary to achieve the core goal of denuclearization,” according to the leaked 109-page U.N. report that was supposed to be confidential. The report, which frets that North Korea’s “pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programs appears likely to continue at a rapid pace,” was temporarily posted on a Ukrainian government website....

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is meanwhile mounting a fresh effort to secure U.N. support for a resolution that would permit U.S. warships to forcibly board and seize North Korean vessels that are in violation of U.N. sanctions. A U.S. draft resolution, which was obtained by FP, would also ban all North Korean exports of oil, natural gas, and textiles and impose sweeping travel and financial sanctions on Kim, his government, and the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.

During an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Monday, Haley acknowledged that the strategy of incrementally ratcheting up pressure has failed to curtail North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. She said the United States will also scrutinize the conduct of countries that do business with Pyongyang, charging that they are “giving aid to their reckless and dangerous nuclear intentions.”...

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Ri Jong Ho, a North Korean defector who helped his government evade sanctions, said the sanctions never inflicted “pain or hurt” on the regime and North Korea’s Chinese business partners paid little heed to sanctions. “When the Chinese government tells them to stop, then they stop for a few days and start again,” he said.

William Newcomb, a former member of the U.N. panel of experts for North Korea, said he had doubts that China and Russia would ultimately approve a broad set of sanctions blocking North Korean fuel imports. But he believes the sanctions, however porous, have “driven up the costs” of pursuing nuclear weapons.

“I think they are having a damaging effect on the economy, even though we all know evasion is still occurring,” Newcomb said. “But the pace of developments in the missile and nuclear program suggests that the U.N. got there with too little, too late.” (End excerpts)

2. The following are excerpts from the February 2, 2018 Reuters report headlined "North Korea supplied arms to Syria and Myanmar, UN sanctions report finds" at

(Begin excerpts)
North Korea has supplied weapons to Syria and Myanmar, according to a confidential report by independent United Nations monitors which also said Pyongyang violated UN sanctions to earn nearly $200m in 2017....

The report also said Pyongyang had shipped coal to ports, including in Russia, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam, mainly using false paperwork that showed countries such as Russia and China as the coal origin, instead of North Korea....

“The DPRK combined deceptive navigation patterns, signals manipulation, transshipments as well as fraudulent documentation to obscure the origin of the coal,” the monitors said.
The UN monitors “also investigated cases of ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products in violation [of UN sanctions].”... (End excerpts)

3. Summary

(a) Like a slippery worm, North Korea succeeds in finding all sorts of treacherous practices and deceitful ways to wriggle out of UN sanctions. However, it must be remembered that a worm can escape through existing holes. If you put it in a closed glass jar or a closed metal can, it can never escape.

In the case of North Korea, the "existing holes" are the countries that are willing to be its "accomplices" or "henchmen" because of shared interests.

Prior to "the last resort", the US may have to try one or all of the following methods:

(i) Most important of all, the US must prevent North Korea from using South Korea to evade UN sanctions.

(ii) Impose a total oil embargo on North Korea.

(iii) Seize all North Korean vessels that return to home ports with illicit cargoes.

(iv) Enforce a naval blockade against North Korea.

(b) Even between a husband and a wife, there will be a violent quarrel if a man does something secretly behind his spouse's back such as using her money without permission. Hence it is unthinkable that China and Russia have been kept in the dark all this while about North Korea's fraudulent documentation to obscure the origin of the coal. We wonder how the two countries will respond to North Korea's deception after the leakage of the news. Will both countries punish North Korea for deceiving its friends? Will a big quarrel flare up between them? Will the patrons of the rogue regime brush the matter aside and pretend as though nothing has happened?

Thanks to North Korea's fraudulent documentation, goods from Russia and China may face huge delays in the future for customs clearance at foreign ports while their country of origin is being established.

North Korea: Sanctions violated by 49 countries, claims new report - Dec. 6, 2017

North Korea Violated U.N. Sanctions To Earn $200 Million from Prohibited Exports, Report Finds
Last edited: