Recent inspections and seizures of banned cargo have shown that North Korea is using increasingly deceptive techniques to circumvent international sanctions, a panel of experts said in a report to the United Nations Security Council published Tuesday.
After a series of nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests by North Korea over the past decade, the Security Council has adopted resolutions calling for increasingly vigorous sanctions aimed at crippling the North’s financial and technical capability to build weapons of mass destruction.
In its latest annual report, posted Tuesday on the United Nations website, the panel of eight experts said that North Korea has persisted in defying those resolutions not only by continuing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs but also by engaging in illegal arms trade.
“It is experienced in actions it takes to evade sanctions,” the panel said. “It makes increasing use of multiple and tiered circumvention techniques.”
The panel said the case of the North Korean cargo ship Chong Chon Gang had provided unrivaled insight into some of those techniques. The vessel was stopped by the Panamanian authorities in July 2013 while carrying undeclared weapons that had been hidden under 10,000 tons of sugar from Cuba.
An investigation showed that the North Korean crew had used secret codes in communications, falsified the ship’s logs and switched off an electronic system that would otherwise have provided real-time information on the ship’s location to the international maritime authorities, the panel said. It added that it suspected the North Korean embassies in Cuba and Singapore of helping to arrange the arms shipment.
The hidden cargo amounted to six trailers associated with surface-to-air missile systems and 25 shipping containers loaded with two disassembled MIG-21 jet fighters, 15 MIG-21 engines, and missile and other arms components, the panel said. Cuba has acknowledged that it was sending Soviet-era weapons to be repaired in North Korea.
The Chong Chon Gang case helped confirm that one of North Korea’s most profitable sources of revenue remains weapons exports, as well as technical support to manufacture and refurbish arms produced in the former Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s, the panel said.