North Korea violated United Nations sanctions to earn almost $200 million in 2017 from banned commodity exports, according to a confidential report by independent UN monitors, which also accused Pyongyang of supplying weapons to Syria and Myanmar. But that's not all.
It said North Korea had shipped coal to ports including Russia, China, and Malaysia, mainly by using false documents.
North Korean diplomats, in particular trade representatives, continue to provide logistical support for arms sales and help organise exchanges for military technicians, it said.
It said much of the shipments passed through Chinese, Russian, Malaysian and Vietnamese ports and that more than 30 representatives of North Korean financial institutions were operating overseas, including in China and Russia. So far, no country named has fessed up to accepting improper coal shipments.
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The monitors said they had investigated ongoing ballistic missile cooperation involving Syria and Myanmar, including more than 40 previously unreported North Korean shipments between 2012 and 2017 to Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Centre, which oversees the country's chemical weapons programme.
Their report states North Korea delivered "items with utility in ballistic missile and chemical weapons programs".
The North Korean company cooperating with the two governments - KOMID - is on a United Nations sanctions blacklist, according to the report.
The U.N. and United States have introduced a wave of sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea's development of nuclear weapons, including by seeking to reduce its access to crude oil and refined petroleum products. In 2013, Panamanian forces confiscated a North Korea-flagged ship after undeclared Cuban weapons and fighter jets from the Soviet era were found under sacks of sugar.
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North Korea has for years used deceptive shipping practices to bring in money and goods for the regime. The coal cargo "would constitute a violation of the resolution, if confirmed".
Over the past year, North Korea has been subject to three Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions for detonating its sixth and most powerful nuclear test as well as a spate of ballistic missile tests showing signs of advanced technology. They said Malaysia reported one shipment to the council committee and the remaining 15 shipments violated sanctions.
However, Syrian officials told the monitors that the only North Korean experts on its territory were involved in sports.
According to the report and the United Nations panel of experts, seven ships have been prevented from entering ports worldwide for violating United Nations sanctions with coal and petroleum transfers.
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