North Korea 'fires three missiles' as nuclear programme slows down, according to UN

 

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, UN experts say in a new report.

Key parts of the expert panel's report provide further information on North Korea's attempts to evade four rounds of increasingly tough UN 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 programmes, 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 channelled into prohibited activities".

The report to the UN 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 UN sanctions and imposed even tougher financial measures against North Korea.

China, which is Pyongyang's closest ally and economic lifeline, supported the UN sanctions.

In a sign of growing discontent with the North, the state-run Bank of China, one of the country's largest, halted business earlier this month with a North Korean bank accused by the US 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 December 12, its third nuclear test on February 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.

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.

Meanwhile, South Korea says North Korea has fired three short-range guided missiles into its eastern waters.

Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok says the North fired three missiles on Saturday. He says the North's intent was unclear.

In March, North Korea tested two short-range missiles off its east coast.

US officials say North Korea recently withdrew two mid-range missiles believed to be capable of reaching Guam after moving them to the east coast earlier this year.

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