North Korea has not stopped nuclear weapons programme despite Trump's claims, UN report finds

Experts find Pyongyang involved in Syrian conflict and trying to arm Houthi rebels in Yemen

Tom Barnes
Saturday 04 August 2018 16:58
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Explosive demolition at North Korea nuclear test site

North Korea has not halted its nuclear weapons programme in a move that directly defies United Nations sanctions, a new UN report has found, despite Donald Trump’s claim the country no longer presented a nuclear threat.

Findings of an investigation submitted to the Security Council late on Friday said the secretive communist state was engaging in “illicit ship-to-ship transfers” of petroleum products to contravene sanctions.

Independent experts said Pyongyang was also cooperating militarily with Syria and attempting to sell arms to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

“[North Korea] has not stopped its nuclear and missile programmes and continued to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, as well as through transfers of coal at sea during 2018,” the 149-page report said.

Pyongyang also violated a textile ban by exporting more than $100m (£77m) in goods between October 2017 and March 2018 to China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey and Uruguay, the report said.

Experts also found North Korea’s “prohibited military cooperation with the Syrian Arab Republic has continued unabated”.

They said North Korean technicians visited Syria in 2011, 2016 and 2017 to engage in ballistic missile tests and other banned activities.

Pyongyang has yet to respond to the findings of the investigation.

The report comes as Russia and China suggest the Security Council discuss easing sanctions following the historic summit between US President Mr Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

However, the United States and other council members have insisted strict enforcement of sanctions must continue until Pyongyang acts.

Mr Trump has previously said denuclearisation talks with North Korea were going “very, very well”, but last month rowed back on his previous assertions the process would be completed quickly, now saying there was no time limit on the negotiations.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, warned against violation of international sanctions, claiming it would reduce pressure on Pyongyang to denuclearise.

He said the US has new, credible reports that Russia is violating UN sanctions by allowing joint ventures with North Korean companies and issuing new permits for North Korean guest workers.

He added Washington would take “very seriously” any violations, and called for them to be roundly condemned and reversed.

“If these reports prove accurate, and we have every reason to believe that they are, that would be in violation,” Mr Pompeo said.

“I want to remind every nation that has supported these resolutions that this is a serious issue and something we will discuss with Moscow.

“We expect the Russians and all countries to abide to the UN Security Council resolutions and enforce sanctions on North Korea.”

The Security Council has unanimously sanctioned North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes – banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, while capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

Following his meeting with Mr Kim, the US president tweeted: “Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!”

Additional reporting by Reuters

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