News & Politics

North Korea's Missile and Nuke Programs in Breach of UN Sanctions

North Korea's Missile and Nuke Programs in Breach of UN Sanctions
North Korean government photo reportedly showing the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

A report to be released next month gives voluminous details of how North Korea is evading the UN sanctions regime in order to upgrade its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

While the news comes as no surprise to most people, the scope and extent of the violations was previously unknown. And North Korea’s greatest enabler in evading sanctions has been China.


“In 2019, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) did not halt its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which it continued to enhance, in violation of Security Council resolutions,” the independent U.N. sanctions monitors wrote.

“Despite its extensive indigenous capability it uses illicit external procurement for some components and technology.”

North Korea has been subjected to U.N. sanctions since 2006. They have been strengthened by the 15-member Security Council over the years in a bid to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

China’s assistance to North Korea has been invaluable. It’s not likely the regime would be standing today if not for Chinese help in cheating.

“According to a Member State, the DPRK exported 3.7 million metric tons of coal between January and August 2019, with an estimated value of $370 million,” the report said.

“According to the Member State, most DPRK coal exports, an estimated 2.8 million metric tons, were conducted via ship-to-ship transfers from DPRK-flagged vessels to Chinese local barges.”

The unidentified member state told the monitors that barges had delivered coal directly to three ports in China’s Hangzhou Bay and also to facilities along the Yangtze river.

The U.N. monitors also said a member state reported that North Korea had exported at least one million tonnes of sand from river dredging, worth at least $22 million, to Chinese ports.

Pyongyang ally China has repeatedly said it is implementing U.N. sanctions.

The Chinese chose to play the “pity us” card.

“On the implementation of the Security Council resolutions concerning the DPRK, China has always faithfully and seriously fulfilled its international obligations and sustained huge losses and tremendous pressure in the process,” a spokesperson for China’s U.N. mission said.

I call BS on that.

What the report doesn’t say is that sanctions sound like a wonderful idea, but are far too easy to evade. We see the same problems in enforcing sanctions with Iran. A fleet of small vessels in the narrow waters of the Gulf can carry tens of thousands of barrels of oil for export a year. That’s money that goes right into the pockets of the mullahs, defeating the purpose of sanctioning the leadership.

Trump won’t be played by Kim Jong-un in de-nuclear talks, which is why they’re destined for failure. Meanwhile, the NoKos continue to enhance and improve their nuclear and missile technology, making it harder and harder to deal with them in the future.