International Sanctions Against North Korea Are Being Subverted, U.N. Panel Finds

By Ian Talley Features Dow Jones Newswires

United Nations member countries are helping North Korea evade international sanctions meant to halt its nuclear-weapons program, a new U.N. report alleges, including through prohibited trade in arms and commodities and financing.

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The draft report, prepared by the U.N.'s panel of experts on North Korea for the Security Council and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, comes as the U.S. is urging the sanctions be strengthened in response to North Korea's latest nuclear and missile tests. It reinforces longstanding U.S. complaints about shortfalls in compliance, which lead Washington to act on its own.

"Despite an increased rate of member states' submission of national implementation reports to the Security Council, the actual implementation of the sanctions lags far behind what is necessary to achieve the core goal of denuclearization," the panel of experts said.

This latest panel report, which gauges compliance as recently as early August, found that as the U.N.'s sanctions regime expands, so does the scope of evasion. The panel said "lax enforcement" and North Korea's evolving techniques to evade sanctions are undermining U.N. efforts to coerce Pyongyang to abandon the development of weapons of mass destruction.

The Trump administration has threatened to ban U.S. trade with countries, such as China, that continue to do business with North Korea, though experts and analysts have said this would be difficult. As it seeks to pressure China, Russia and other nations to cut off business and financial ties, the administration is expected soon to roll out additional actions targeting Chinese companies and banks.

North Korea doesn't recognize the sanctions as legitimate. Asked about them late Wednesday, a man identifying himself as a staff member of North Korea's mission to the U.N. said they represent hostile policy toward his country.

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The U.N. panel of experts said it documented the presence of North Koreans throughout Africa and the Middle East, particularly in Syria, acting on behalf of sanctioned entities.

The U.N. experts say they are investigating cooperation in chemical weapons, ballistic missiles and conventional arms between Pyongyang's primary arms dealer, Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., and Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center, the government agency responsible for developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Two member states had interdicted shipments from North Korea to Syria, the panel said, and Pyongyang is involved in Syria's Scud and surface-to-air missile systems.

Over a six-month reporting period starting in late 2016, North Korea also generated $270 million in revenue from prohibited sales of commodities, including coal, iron and zinc, largely to China. After China said it would temporarily bar purchases of North Korean coal, Pyongyang began routing sales to other countries, U.N. investigators said.

The U.N. panel also named several North Korean banks established, managed or owned by Chinese companies. Beijing told the panel that the companies aren't authorized to establish banks in North Korea, but the panel said it hadn't heard whether Chinese authorities had acted to shut them down.

The panel also recommended that the Security Council sanction a network -- comprising individuals, companies and bank accounts in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East -- that it said is operated by North Korea's intelligence agency for exporting military communications equipment.

Write to Ian Talley at ian.talley@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 07, 2017 12:42 ET (16:42 GMT)