"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement"
July 1, 2020
UN Report: Enforce N. Korea Sanctions

Kelsey Davenport

UN member states should focus on significantly improving implementation of existing sanctions to slow North Korea’s prohibited nuclear and ballistic missile programs rather than passing new measures, a March 6 report to the UN Security Council recommended.

The report, written by a panel of experts authorized under UN Security Council Resolution 1874 in 2009, found that North Korea has developed “multiple and tiered circumvention techniques” to evade sanctions and continue work on the banned programs but that states have “adequate tools” to prevent Pyongyang’s illicit trafficking.

Together, Resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094 prohibit arms sales and transfers of nuclear and ballistic missile technology to North Korea, ban the sale of luxury items to Pyongyang, and give states broad authority to inspect North Korean cargo suspected of violating these measures if it passes through their territories. The mandate for the panel of experts includes assessing the effect of the sanctions on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and providing recommendations for better implementing restrictive measures on Pyongyang.

An incident last July involving a North Korean ship carrying Cuban weapons helped inform the panel’s recommendations, as it gave them “unrivalled insight” into the ways that Pyongyang circumvents sanctions, the report said.

Panama stopped the ship carrying Cuban weapons to North Korea on July 15, charging a violation of UN Security Council sanctions that prohibit transfers of arms to Pyongyang. (See ACT, September 2013.)

According to a July 16 statement by the Cuban Foreign Ministry, the “obsolete defensive weaponry,” made in the Soviet Union, was being shipped to North Korea for repair.

After investigating the ship’s cargo, the panel found that the shipment violated UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting the “indirect supply, sale or transfer” of arms to North Korea. Under the resolutions, Pyongyang also is not permitted to provide “technical training, advice, services or assistance” related to the maintenance of weaponry, the panel said.

According to the report, the illegal cargo was hidden among bags of sugar and included two MiG aircraft, 15 MiG aircraft engines, components for surface-to air-missiles, ammunition, and “miscellaneous arms-related material.”

Panama acted in “full compliance with relevant resolutions” and “set a sound precedent for future interdictions,” the panel concluded.

One of the panel’s recommendations is to ask member states to verify the contents of any cargo originating from or bound for North Korea that passes through their ports or airports. The panel also requested that member states provide information on all cargo inspections, even if prohibited items are not found.

The report provided further details about additional sanctions violations, including shipments of materials that can be used for nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

One documented violation was a shipment of aluminum alloy rods from North Korea to Myanmar. Under the Security Council resolutions, North Korea is prohibited from exporting this type of aluminum alloy because of its uses in nuclear programs.

Japan seized the rods from a ship it inspected in August 2012 along with documents indicating that the rods had been shipped from North Korea via China. In January 2014, China provided the panel with confirmation that the rods originated in North Korea and were being sent to Myanmar, the report said.

In November 2012, when the seizure was made public, the Myanmar government denied knowledge of a deal with North Korea to obtain the rods and said that the country had no nuclear ambitions. (See ACT, December 2012.)

The panel said it has requested further information from Myanmar about the shipment.

The panel also released findings from its examination of the debris from North Korea’s space launch in December 2012. The launch took place at North Korea’s Sohae launch facility in the northwestern region of the country and used a three-stage, liquid-fueled rocket, the Unha-3, as the satellite launch vehicle. (See ACT, January/February 2013.) South Korea recovered debris from the rocket that fell into the ocean.

According to the report, the panel’s analysis of the debris found materials that could be traced back to China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the former Soviet Union. Four countries provided information to the panel about the materials, nearly all of which are not sanctioned items, the report said.

The panel concluded that the acquisition of these materials indicates the limits of North Korea’s “industrial production capabilities” and its ability to “assemble complex systems” to obtain necessary components and continue its illicit programs.

North Korea is prohibited from launching satellites under Resolution 1718, passed in 2006, and Resolution 1874, passed in 2009, because the technology of a space-launch vehicle can be used in the development of ballistic missiles.

The report requested that the states that had yet to do so provide information about the foreign-origin materials used in the Unha-3 satellite launch.