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11:10 25 February 2017

N. Korea continuing arms trade despite sanctions: U.N. report

NEW YORK, Feb. 24, Kyodo

North Korea is intensifying efforts to evade international sanctions, as exemplified by its attempt last year to export a large number of rocket-propelled grenades, according to a U.N. experts' report obtained by Kyodo News on Friday.

The report, produced by a group of experts under the U.N. Security Council's sanctions committee on North Korea, shed light on the country's continued arms trade activity.

Although its weapons exports are prohibited outright under Security Council sanctions, the regime of leader Kim Jong Un is apparently trying to continue the trade as a means of securing funds for its nuclear and missile development programs.

Pyongyang "is flouting sanctions through trade in prohibited goods, with evasion techniques that are increasing in scale, scope and sophistication," it said.

Egypt last August seized 30,000 PG-7 rocket-propelled grenades and related subcomponents in wooden crates concealed under about 2,300 tons of iron ore in a ship commanded by a North Korean captain.

The case marked "the largest interdicted ammunition consignment in the history of sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," the report said, referring to the country by its formal name.

The document also said the shipment of weapons and iron ore "highlights the nexus in trade by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in a variety of illicit goods," from small arms and light weapons ammunition to minerals banned under a U.N. sanctions resolution adopted last March.

A bill of lading showed the North Korean-made arms were falsely described as "assembly parts" of an underwater pump loaded in Nanjing, China. The transfer of iron ore is also prohibited in principle under the same resolution.

The Cambodian-flagged vessel Jie Shun was intercepted in Egyptian territorial waters when it was en route from North Korea toward the Suez Canal.

The vessel's final destination was not identified as Egypt. The cargo could have been bound for Syria, with which North Korea has pushed for military cooperation, and some African nations.

Since 2006 when North Korea conducted its first underground nuclear test, the isolated country has been subject to six rounds of U.N. sanctions.

On Nov. 30, the Security Council adopted its harshest sanctions yet in response to the country's fifth nuclear test, conducted in September. The measures were aimed at hitting coal, the cash-strapped state's largest export, in an effort to cut off funding sources for its nuclear and missile programs.

China last weekend suspended coal imports from North Korea until the end of the year as part of tightened sanctions against the country in accordance with the latest Security Council resolution.

But China, the main economic and diplomatic benefactor of the North, has been reluctant to pile too much pressure on the country, fearing it could destabilize Kim's regime.

==Kyodo

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