UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea is still trying to import and export nuclear and ballistic missile-related items but financial and trade sanctions are slowing progress on development of their prohibited weapons, U.N. experts say in a new report.
Key parts of the expert panel's report, obtained Friday by the Associated Press, provide further information on North Korea's attempts to evade four rounds of increasingly tough U.N. sanctions aimed at reining in its development of nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them.
While the imposition of sanctions has not halted these programs, the panel said, "it has in all likelihood considerably delayed the (North's) timetable, and through the imposition of financial sanctions and the bans on the trade in weapons, has choked off significant funding which would have been channeled into prohibited activities."
The report to the U.N. Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea recommended imposing sanctions on four additional North Korean companies and 11 individuals.
The council discussed the experts' report on Thursday and it will be up to members to decide whether they are added to the sanctions blacklist.
To increase pressure on Kim Jong Un's regime, the United States and the European Union have gone beyond U.N. sanctions and imposed even tougher financial measures against North Korea.
China, which is Pyongyang's closest ally and economic lifeline, supported the U.N. sanctions. In a sign of growing discontent with the North, the state-run Bank of China Ltd., one of the country's largest, halted business earlier this month with a North Korean bank accused by the U.S. of financing Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programs.
The panel said North Korea "has continued to defy the international community in a series of actions which has heightened concerns about its intentions." It cited the North's ballistic missile launch on Dec. 12, its third nuclear test on Feb. 12, and its declaration that it would reactivate nuclear facilities at its Yongbyon nuclear complex.
"The DPRK has continued its efforts to import and export items relevant to missile and nuclear programs and arms," the panel said, using the initials of the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The report listed North Korean sanctions violations over a five-year period including the seizure of aluminum alloys suspected to be nuclear related in August 2012, and the seizure of missile-related items bound for Syria in May 2012.
In 2011, it said North Korea attempted to procure missile technology, sophisticated computer tools, and parts for MiG-21 jets in violation of sanctions. In 2010, arms-related material bound for Syria was seized and in 2008 rocket fuses bound for Iran were confiscated, it said.
Given the North's "consistent sanctions evasion," the panel recommended that the country's newly created Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry and its minister, who has not yet been named, be added to the sanctions list.
For violating the ballistic missile ban, it recommended adding the Munitions Industry Department of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers Party and the State Space Development Bureau.
The panel also recommended sanctions against the Hesong Trading Corporation, a subsidiary of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., which was involved in trying to sell 70 North Korean portable anti-aircraft missiles to Azerbaijan. British arms dealer Michael Ranger was convicted in July 2012 of attempting to sell the missiles, and the panel also recommended that the U.N. put his primary contact at Hesong, O Hak-Chol, on the sanctions list.
The panel said it had closed its investigation into Thailand's seizure of an arms shipment from a plane originating in North Korea in 2009 that was valued at over US$ 16 million. It recommended sanctions against Alexander Zykov of Kazakhstan and Ukrainians Iurii Lunov and Igor Karev-Popov, who were involved in the arms transfer.
Given the DPRK's continued development of its nuclear programs, the panel urged that key items, especially for uranium enrichment, be subject to sanctions including high-strength steel and aluminum alloy, frequency changers, fibrous or filamentary materials, ring magnets, and semi-hard magnetic alloys in thin strip form.
The panel noted that 96 countries — under 50 percent of the 193 U.N. member states — have submitted reports on their implementation of sanctions against North Korea.
"Regrettably, the level of detail given in many of these is insufficient to judge if domestic legislation is sufficient to effectively enforce the sanctions," it said.