North Korea continued to export sanctioned or restricted metals and minerals worth over $270 million to numerous countries despite the passage of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, a leaked mid-year UN Panel of Experts (PoE) report reveals.
The PoE report found that countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East had continued to import sanctioned commodities including iron, coal, gold, copper, and nickel between December 2016 and May 2017.
The shipments were in likely breach of UN Resolution 2270 and 2321 passed last year, which between them prohibited or restricted UN member states from importing a range of North Korean commodities.
“The DPRK continued to violate sectoral sanctions through the export of almost all commodities prohibited by in the resolutions, generating at least $270 million in revenue during the reporting period,” the PoE report reads.
UN resolutions passed in 2016 restricted member states from buying North Korean iron, unless importing countries first confirmed that the trade was for livelihood purposes, while also requiring countries to inspect all cargos coming from the DPRK.
Using international customs databases and trade statistics, the PoE found North Korea “exported a total of $44,344,912 or iron and steel to … Barbados, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, France, El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Ireland and Sri Lanka.”
After uncovering the trade the PoE attempted to discover how member states had verified the trade was covered by the livelihood exception and activities unrelated to activities prohibited by UN resolutions.
But the PoE report indicates no member state provided the Panel with answers on how they had verified the imports were covered by the resolutions’ humanitarian exceptions, indicating the trades were in breach of sanctions.
“The Panel did not receive replies to its other questions from the relevant member states. Nor were any notifications regarding iron and iron ore imports received by the Committee nor inspections reported,” the report reads.
The report found that even countries with comparatively strict sanctions implementation procedures like Germany could fall afoul to importing sanctioned North Korean commodities.
According to the PoE, a German company had purchased North Korean ferrosilicon via a company in Dalian. The German government told the PoE an audit was ongoing, though it appeared the company was not aware it was buying North Korean goods.
But UN resolutions prohibit both the direct and indirect shipment of sanctioned DPRK commodities, indicating the trades may still have breached UN resolutions.
India – which imported DPRK iron to the tune of $146,548 – told the PoE that the UN’s definition of “iron” and “iron ore” was subjective, adding that some trade categories did not separate out sanctioned iron, from non-sanctioned steel.
“In general, countries cannot use the excuse of not knowing how to implement North Korea sanctions as this regime has existed since 2006 and there have been numerous opportunities to ask the UN or other countries for help,” Anthony Ruggiero, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told NK News.
The Panel of Experts also continued to look into UN member states importing North Korean coal. Formerly the DPRK’s most valuable export, UN resolution 2321 limited the amount of the North Korean coal member states could import each year.
The PoE found that China may have breached the resolution in December last year by exceeding the quota set for that month by a wide margin. But Beijing told the UN the exports happened before it was able to take concrete action on the new resolution.
But China’s December imports, combined with those from early 2017 indicate that coal shipments were close to the UN’s quota for 2017, arriving at 90.29 percent of the value cap of $401 million by March.
The Panel noted that China’s coal imports from the DPRK dropped sharply after Beijing banned DPRK coal in February, but added that North Korea began to diversify its exports following Beijing’s announcement.
Both Malaysia and Vietnam imported North Korean coal multiple times in 2017, while Thailand turned away a shipment that was subsequently rerouted.
“(The) available data indicates China’s ban on the import of DPRK coal has led to the DPRK rerouting coal to other member states in an effort to generate revenue,” the report adds.
“The Panel’s investigations reveal that the DPRK is deliberately using indirect channels to export prohibited commodities, evading sanctions.”
THAT’S SO METAL
Last year’s resolutions also placed more straightforward bans on North Korean gold, silver, titanium, vanadium, copper, nickel, zinc and rare earth minerals.
The Panel of Experts report indicates that several countries continued to import the commodities, despite their prohibited status, throughout late 2016 and 2017.
China appeared the most frequent importer of the designated commodities, buying up North Korean silver, copper, zinc, and nickel during the same time period. But Sri Lanka and India also appeared in breach of the UN resolutions.
While revenues from the sanctioned metals were smaller than those from iron and coal, North Korea still made tens of millions of dollars from the trades. The PoE urged member states to remain vigilant and not accept prohibited commodities from the DPRK.
“Overall, countries need to do more to counter North Korea’s sanctions evasion and Washington should lead a coalition of like-minded countries to offer assistance to those who need it and sanction those who continue to violate UN sanctions,” Ruggiero told NK News.