SEOUL/UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council has approved tough new sanctions against North Korea following its latest nuclear test and long-range missile launch.
U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the U.N. action. "Today, the international community, speaking with one voice, has sent Pyongyang a simple message: North Korea must abandon these dangerous programs and choose a better path for its people," he said.
Wednesday's vote came as a new study by the Security Council details how North Korea has effectively evaded international sanctions in the last decade.
The report, written by a U.N. panel that oversees sanctions violations, acknowledges that the four rounds of increasingly stronger U.N. measures imposed on North Korea since 2006 have failed to persuade Kim Jong Un's government to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missiles program.
Given North Korea’s recent nuclear test and satellite launch, and its insistence that its nuclear program is needed to deter the U.S. threat, the report raises "serious questions about the efficacy of the current United Nations sanctions regime."
The U.N. report documents a number of cases where North Korea has evaded sanctions. It reveals how the secretive state continues to use the international financial system, airlines and container shipping routes to trade in prohibited items.
Lack of cooperation
A 2006 U.N. resolution requires member states to report all inspections of North Korean cargo suspected of carrying arms or other products that have military purposes, even if no violation is found. But in the last 10 years, only one member has filed a report.
Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the report notes, continue to sell North Korea banned military hardware such as unmanned aerial vehicle components and radar systems.
Myanmar's government was less than cooperative with the U.N. panel when contacted about the possible involvement of Myanmar-based entity Soe Min Htike in attempts to ship aluminum alloy rods to North Korea. The aluminum rods, which can be used to make nuclear centrifuges, were seized in Japan while in transit in 2012.
The Korea Mining Development Trading Corp. (KOMID) was designated in April 2009 as a main exporter of North Korean goods and equipment relating to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons.
But KOMID has been able to circumvent sanctions on its operations by using a different name and working though the Hong Kong shipping company Leader International.
The China-based Dalian Union International Trading knowingly engaged in trade prohibited under U.N. sanctions by working through a bank account held by the Sunny International Development Co., registered in Hong Kong.
"They adopted concealment techniques such as the use of foreign intermediaries, front company networks and incomplete documentation," said the U.N. report.
In 2015, Britain informed the panel about an attempt by North Korea to buy miniaturized optical equipment for drones through intermediaries based in China and registered in Hong Kong.
Richard Wang (Dewen Wang in Chinese), director of HK Conie Technology, was listed on the export license application for the drone parts.
The U.N. panel identified a trade relationship between HK Conie and a North Korean entity called Korean Pioneer Technology Co. Ltd., which reportedly used the alias Korea 21 Trading Co.
In 2013, a member state seized suspected cargo on its way from Beijing to Cairo.
Documentation listed a North Korean company, Ryongsong Trading Co. Ltd. as the shipper and an Egyptian company, MODA Authority International Optronic, as the consignee.
The cargo was labeled as "machine spare parts," including relays, "coils," connectors and voltage circuit breakers commonly used in commercial fishing ships.
Upon closer inspection the U.N. Panel found these items were spare parts used in Scud-B missile systems.
Examining the wreckage
In 2014, the U.N. panel examined a North Korean drone that crashed on a South Korean border island and concluded it was likely made by one of two Chinese companies.
Manufacturers in the Czech Republic and Canada also make components used in the Chinese made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
An examination of the debris of a North Korean Unha-3 rocket launched in 2012 revealed the involvement of a Taipei-based company, the Royal Team Corporation (RTC).
The report explained complicated payment schemes used to get around sanctions.
The panel found that North Korea tried to hide its illicit dealing with RTC by sending payments through a third party company that it ostensibly paid to host a trade show.
The report reveals North Korean military ties with Uganda, Eritrea and Vietnam. It notes the use of armored limousines from Europe in military parades, the transfer of gold and luxury goods from Israel and Ghana, the ongoing involvement of banned North Korean agents from the Reconnaissance General Bureau and North Korean government ties to the Ocean Maritime Management Co. Ltd.
The new U.N. Security Council sanctions approved Wednesday are intended to prevent future violations by making inspections mandatory, tightening restrictions and increasing financial oversight.
But the detailed extent of past evasions also illustrates the challenge ahead to implement sanctions against North Korea in many countries, including China, where enforcement has been lax.
The new sanctions
New U.N. sanctions aim to cut off the trade and funding of North Korea’s nuclear program and its military and to target leaders and officials directly involved in illicit activities. These include:
*A total arms embargo enforced through mandatory inspection of all cargo, even food transiting into or out of North Korea via land, sea or air.
*Requiring member states to expel North Korean diplomats, companies and representatives involved in aiding or funding the banned nuclear and missile programs.
*Banning imports of highly refined aviation fuel used for both civilian planes and rockets, with no exemption for civil aviation.
*Limiting or banning exports of North Korean coal, iron, gold, titanium and rare earth minerals.
*Requiring states to close North Korean bank accounts and prohibiting engagement with the country’s banks.
*Expanding ban on luxury items for import into North Korea, prohibiting expensive watches, personal watercraft and snowmobiles valued over $2,000.
Youmi Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.