A report by independent United Nations monitors claims that North Korea had an military cooperation with Syria and Myanmar.

In this December 23, 2014, file photo, a crane loads off the Russian food aid to North Korea at Nampho port in Nampho city, North Korea.
In this December 23, 2014, file photo, a crane loads off the Russian food aid to North Korea at Nampho port in Nampho city, North Korea. (AP)

North Korea is flouting sanctions by exporting coal, iron, steel and other banned commodities, earning nearly $200 million in revenue last year, a UN report said on Friday.

A UN panel of experts also found evidence of military cooperation by North Korea to develop Syria's chemical weapons programs and to provide Myanmar with ballistic missiles. 

North Korea "continued to export almost all the commodities prohibited in the resolutions, generating nearly $200 million in revenue between January and September 2017," said the report by the experts seen by AFP.

Coal shipments were delivered to China, Malaysia, South Korea, Russia and Vietnam by ships using "a combination of multiple evasion techniques, routes and deceptive tactics," said the report.

The Security Council last year adopted a series of resolutions to tighten and expand exports bans aimed at cutting off revenue to North Korea's military programs.

The United States led the push for tough economic sanctions after North Korea's sixth nuclear test and a series of ballistic missile launches that raised fears that the US mainland could soon be within reach.

Seven ships have been barred from ports worldwide for violating UN sanctions with coal and petroleum transfers, but the experts said much more must be done to confront "these rampant illicit activities."

The panel found that North Korea "is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries, and the international banking system."

Arms to Syria and Myanmar

Syria and Myanmar are continuing cooperation with North Korea's KOMID corporation, the country's main arms exporter, which is on a UN sanctions blacklist, the report said.

The panel uncovered more than 40 previously unreported shipments from North Korea between 2012 and 2017 to front companies for Syria's Scientific Studies Research Council, also known as CERS, a key institute for Syria's chemical program. 

The investigations reveal "substantial new evidence" concerning Pyongyang's military cooperation with Damascus, including at least three visits by North Korean technicians to Syria in 2016.

A visit by a North Korean technical delegation in August 2016 involved the "transfer of special resistance valves and thermometers known for use in chemical weapons programs," said the report.

A member-state that was not named told the panel that North Korean "technicians continue to operate at chemical weapons and missile facilities at Barzei, Adra and Hama" in Syria, said the report.

Syria however told the panel that there were no North Korean technicians in its territory and that the only experts it was hosting from the country were involved in sports.

A member-state, which was not named, also notified the panel that Myanmar had received "ballistic missile systems from (North Korea) in addition to a range of conventional weapons, including multiple rocket launches and surface-to air missiles". 

North Korean diplomats, in particular trade representatives, continue to provide logistical support for arms sales and help organize exchanges for military technicians, it said.

While sanctions have been significantly broadened, this "expansion of the regime is yet to be matched by the requisite political will" to implement the measures, the experts said.

The panel of experts said 2018 offered a "critical window of opportunity before a potential miscalculation with disastrous implications for international peace and security."

Source: AFP