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Serious Doubts Whether Sanctions Against DPRK Are Effective

By Ramesh Jaura

BERLIN | NEW YORK (IDN) – The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) maintains a tight spider network around the world that enables it "to employ great ingenuity in using formal banking channels and bulk cash transfers to facilitate illicit endeavours," a close look at the Report of the UN Panel of Experts monitoring the implementation of Security Council sanctions against North Korea reveals.

An analysis of the Report covering the period from February 6, 2016 to February 5, 2017 does not give cause for hope that the expanded sanctions imposed unanimously by 15 members of the Security Council on August 5 would achieve the declared objective, which the Resolution 2371 (2017) defined as follows:

" . . . DPRK shall not conduct any further launches that use ballistic missile technology, nuclear tests, or any other provocation; shall suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launches; shall abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, and immediately cease all related activities; and shall abandon any other existing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner."

The February 2017 Panel Report stated: "The unprecedented frequency and intensity of the nuclear and ballistic missile tests helped the country to achieve technological milestones in weapons of mass destruction capability, and all indications are that this pace will continue." It predicted: "The stated goals of the resolutions of achieving denuclearization and a peaceful solution to the situation seem increasingly remote."

A part of the reason the strengthening and expansion of the sanctions might not serve the desired purpose is: "Member States that host North Korean nationals that control the movement of persons across their borders, that regulate banks and that regulate correspondent banks "have not made a commensurate investment in their own capacity to enforce the strengthened sanctions." Consequently, the Panel added, agents of the DPRK have been able to mask both their illicit activities and their links to the country.

In addition, there is a trend towards the use of agents who are not from North Korea and companies registered by facilitators, again not from North Korea, in various countries. The Panel’s financial investigations have shown that, while this occurs in many parts of Asia, there is a trend towards greater use of front companies in Hong Kong, China, and other cities on the Chinese mainland that show no trace of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in registration documents.

Besides, following the adoption of Resolution 2270 passed in March 2016 after the fourth nuclear test, the Panel sent reminders to 90 Member States that had never submitted national implementation reports (NIRs). Six months later, reminders were sent to 134 non-reporting Member States, paying particular attention to Security Council members and co-sponsors of the resolution to invite them to lead by example.

The Panel encouraged non-reporting Member States to use the updated guidelines on the preparation and submission of NIRs. "In contrast to the previous period, all Security Council Members submitted their national implementation reports in 2016. Despite increased reporting for resolution 2270 (2016) as compared with previous resolutions, the Panel notes that the number of non-reporting States (116) remains significant," said the Report.

It remains to be seen what the Panel of Experts will say when it publishes its next Report, perhaps in September 2017. But experts agree that the sanctions imposed since the DPRK's first nuclear test in 2006 have hardly been effective.

The Security Council Resolution 1718 in 2006 demanded that North Korea cease nuclear testing and prohibited the export to North Korea of some military supplies and luxury goods. The UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea was established, supported by the Panel of Experts.

Resolution 1874, passed after the second nuclear test in 2009, widened the arms embargo. Member states were encouraged to inspect ships and destroy any cargo suspected being related to the nuclear weapons program.

Resolution 2087, passed in January 2013 after a satellite launch, strengthened previous sanctions by clarifying a state’s right to seize and destroy cargo suspected of heading to or from North Korea for purposes of military research and development.

Resolution 2094 was passed in March 2013 after the third nuclear test. It imposed sanctions on money transfers and aimed to shut North Korea out of the international financial system.

Resolution 2270, approved in March 2016 after the fourth nuclear test, further strengthened sanctions. It banned the export of gold, vanadium, titanium, and rare earth metals. The export of coal and iron were also banned, with an exemption for transactions that were purely for "livelihood purposes".

Resolution 2321, passed in November 2016, capped North Korea's coal exports and banned exports of copper, nickel, zinc, and silver. Also in February 2017, China announced it would ban all imports of coal for the rest of the year.

The Panel’s Report shows that, despite the support of Member States for strengthened sanctions by the Security Council through two new resolutions adopted in 2016, "this effort has not yet been matched by the requisite political will, prioritization and resource allocation to ensure effective implementation."

Resolution 2371, passed in August 2017, banned all exports of coal, iron, lead, and seafood. The resolution also imposed new restrictions on North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank and prohibited any increase in the number of North Koreans working in foreign countries.

Hitherto, the DPRK's continued access to the international banking system has been behind the illicit activities. "Despite strengthened financial sanctions in 2016, the country’s networks are adapting by using greater ingenuity in accessing formal banking channels, as well as bulk cash and gold transfers," noted the Panel of Experts' February 2017 Report.

The North Korean banks maintain correspondent bank accounts and representative offices abroad and partner with foreign companies in joint ventures, the Panel Report added.

The Panel found that companies and diplomatic missions of the DPRK open accounts that, in effect, perform the services that a financial institution would. The DPRK's consulate in Shenyang, Northeast of China, was providing a supporting financial role, contrary to the prohibition in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations against commercial activities by consular facilities, noted the Panel.

The Panel comprises nationals from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) as well as Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) and South Africa.

The coordinator of the seven experts – Benoit Camguilhem, Dmitry Kiku, Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Youngwan Kim, Maiko Takeuchi, Neil Watts, and Jiahu Zong – is the UK's Hugh Griffiths of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). [IDN-InDepthNews – 20 August 2017]

Photo: The DPRK Civil Aviation Bureau Chief Kang Ki Sop at airports and airfields – together with Kim Jong-un – controlled by the North Korean People’s Army Air Force, underlining, according to the Panel, that the Korean airlines Air Koryo is integrated into the military of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and that the airline’s assets are actively utilized for military purposes. Credit: KCNA and the UN Panel.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate

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