While most Western intelligence agencies and independent experts have long accused North Korea of selling its nuclear and ballistic-missile technology to other rogue regimes, a new report released by the United Nations gives added affirmation to that claim.
The release of the report, whose publication had been delayed by China for six months, coincides with the meeting of world leaders at the G-20 economic summit in Seoul, South Korea.
Compiled by a UN panel of experts, who had been charged with monitoring North Korean compliance on imposed UN sanctions, the 75-page report outlines North Korean involvement in supplying banned weapons material to Syria, Iran and Myanamar (Burma).
Specifically, North Korea is alleged to have violated UN resolutions 1784 and 1874, which had been imposed on North Korea for setting off two nuclear test devices in 2006 and 2009.
According to the UN report, “Evidence provided in these reports indicates that the DPRK (North Korea) has continued to provide missiles, components, and technology to certain countries including Iran and Syria since the imposition of these measures.”
North Korea was also cited for using a “broad range of techniques to mask its financial transactions,” mixing “illicit transactions with otherwise legitimate business activities in such a way as to hide the illicit activity.” Because of the dilapidated state of its oceanic fleet, North Korea was also accused of relying “increasingly on foreign-owned and -flagged ships to carry all or part of its illicit cargo.”
One question that now emanates from the report’s findings centers on the effect, if any, the UN report will have on the resumption of the six-nation (two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the United States) talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, negotiations which ended in April 2009.
A second, and perhaps more relevant, question is if North Korea will pay any substantial price for these violations of international law. If history is any guide, the answer is probably not.
For many, the UN report is not surprising in its conclusions and just serves to underscore North Korea’s longstanding unwillingness to seriously partake in discussions over the termination of its nuclear ambitions. As with the current debate over Iran’s nuclear program, actions speak much louder than words.
In 2007 evidence surfaced over the completion of a Syrian nuclear reactor built with North Korean assistance. Although the United States refused to takeout the facility, it raised no objections when the Israeli government, acting on its own, ordered its air force to destroy the reactor.
In 2009 North Korea walked out on the six-nation talks in protest over international condemnation over its long-range missile technology program. While North Korea had ostensibly agreed to end its entire nuclear program in 2007, shutting down its main-plutonium producing plant at Yongbyon in the process, the walkout produced a resumption of operations at Yongbyon .
Soon after, North Korea set off its second nuclear test device, which resulted in the current sanctions that it is now accused of violating. Moreover, there are now reports surfacing it will soon set off a third nuclear test device.
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