UN probing North Korea sanctions violations in 20 countries

In a photo taken on February 17, 2019 people walk before the Monument to the Party Founding in Pyongyang. Ahead of his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, US President Donald Trump has touted the prospect of the impoverished, isolated and nuclear-armed country becoming an "Economic Powerhouse" if it follows a path of peace. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2019
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UN probing North Korea sanctions violations in 20 countries

  • The panel said it continues monitoring uranium concentration plants and mining sites in the country

UNITED NATIONS: UN experts say they are investigating possible violations of United Nations sanctions on North Korea in about 20 countries, from alleged clandestine nuclear procurement in China to arms brokering in Syria and military cooperation with Iran, Libya and Sudan.
The expert panel’s 66-page report to the Security Council, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, also detailed the appearance in North Korea of a Rolls-Royce Phantom, Mercedes-Benz limousines and Lexus LX 570 all-wheel drive luxury vehicles in violation of a ban on luxury goods.
And it noted a trend in North Korea’s evasion of financial sanctions “of using cyberattacks to illegally force the transfer of funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges.”
The report’s executive summary, which was obtained in early February, said North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs “remain intact” and its leaders are dispersing missile assembly and testing facilities to prevent “decapitation” strikes.
The full report said “the Yongbyon nuclear complex remained active,” noting that satellite imagery through November showed excavation of water channels and construction of a new building near the reactors’ water discharge facilities. Satellite imagery also “indicates possible operation of the radiochemical laboratory and associated steam plant,” it said.
The panel said it continues monitoring uranium concentration plants and mining sites in the country.
It also has “surveyed, confirmed and reported ballistic missile activity sites and found evidence of a consistent trend” by North Korea “to disperse its assembly, storage and testing locations,” the report said.
In addition to using civilian facilities, the panel said North Korea is using “previously idle or sprawling military-industrial sites as launch locations” — some close to, and some up to 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the assembly or storage sites.
As examples of this trend, it cited the test launch of Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missiles from the Panghyon aircraft factory on July 4, 2017, and a launch from Mupyong-ni 24 days after that. It said Pyongyang’s Sunan International Airport, the country’s largest civil-military airfield, was used to launch Hwasong-12 missiles on Aug. 29 and Sept. 15 of that year.
As for trade sanctions, the experts said they continue to investigate two Chinese companies on the UN sanctions blacklist — Namchogang Trading Corp. and Namhung Trading Corp. — and associated front companies and their representatives “for nuclear procurement activities.”
The panel said it is also currently surveying the world’s manufacturers of nuclear “choke point” items such as “pressure transducers,” focusing on their end-use delivery verification methods.
The experts said they also were continuing “multiple investigations into prohibited activities” between North Korea and the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.
These include Syrian nationals reported to be engaged in arms brokering on behalf of North Korea “to a range of Middle Eastern and African states, reportedly offering conventional arms and, in some cases, ballistic missiles, to armed groups in Yemen and Libya,” the panel said. They also include North Koreans working for sanctioned “entities” and for Syrian defense factories, it said.
The experts said a country, which they didn’t identify, had informed them that Iran “was one of the two most lucrative markets” for North Korean military cooperation and that both the Korea Mining Development Trading Corp. and Green Pine Associated Corp. offices in the country “are active.” The unnamed country also indicated that North Koreans in Iran were being used as cash couriers, the report said.
The Iranian government replied to the panel that the only North Koreans in the country were diplomats, and they have not violated UN sanctions, the report said.
The panel said it is continuing investigations into “multiple attempts at military cooperation” between North Korea and various Libyan authorities and sanctioned “entities” and foreign nationals working on their behalf.
The experts said they are also continuing investigations into military cooperation projects between North Korea and Sudan, including information on activities involving a Syrian arms trafficker and technology for “anti-tank and man-portable air defense systems.”


Three dead, one missing in devastating floods across US Midwest

Horses that were being boarded in Inglewood, Neb., are moved through floodwaters to higher ground in Fremont Neb., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP)
Updated 11 min 20 sec ago
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Three dead, one missing in devastating floods across US Midwest

  • Record flooding was reported in 17 locations in the state and 10 American Red Cross shelters were operating for displaced residents

CHICAGO: At least one person was missing on Monday after devastating floods across the US Midwest that killed three others and inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in what Nebraska’s governor called a disaster of historic proportions.
As floodwaters began to recede in much of the area inundated by the aftermath of a storm dubbed a “bomb cyclone,” Nebraska officials were taking in the damage in a state where 64 of the 93 counties have declared emergencies.
“This is clearly the most widespread disaster we have had in our state’s history,” in terms of sheer size, Governor Pete Ricketts told reporters on an afternoon briefing call.
State officials said on the call that 290 people had been rescued by the Nebraska State Patrol, National Guard troops, and urban search and rescue teams.
Damage to the state’s livestock sector was estimated at about $400 million, while the full impact on the spring planting season was not yet clear, said Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
The state’s highway system suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, said Kyle Schneweis, director of the state Department of Transportation, with more than 200 miles of roadways needing repair or replacement. Some 540 miles of highways remained closed, he said, down from 1,500 at the peak of flooding.
The three known fatalities included an 80-year-old woman who perished at her Columbus, Nebraska, home, despite attempts to rescue her from rising floodwaters, said Col. John Bolduc of the Nebraska State Patrol.
Bolduc said a young man from Norfolk, Nebraska, was swept away and killed after driving his car into moving water, and a Columbus man died when the tractor he was using to help free a stranded driver overturned.
One person was missing and presumed dead following the collapse of the Spencer Dam along Niobrara River in southwest Nebraska, Buldoc said.

VICE PRESIDENT TO VISIT
The Missouri River, the longest in North America, has flooded much of Nebraska between Omaha and Kansas City at the Missouri state line.
The river was expected to crest at 47.5 feet (14.48 m) on Tuesday, breaking the previous record, set in 2011, by more than a foot, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said in the latest bulletin on its web page.
Ricketts said he had requested emergency assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and been in contact with the Trump administration.
Vice President Mike Pence would travel to Nebraska on Tuesday to survey the damage, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Twitter. Ricketts and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds have both declared states of emergency
The Missouri River’s overflowing banks cut off roads leading to the Cooper nuclear plant, near Brownville, Nebraska, forcing operators to fly in staff and supplies by helicopter. The plant continued to operate safely, its operator said.
Water also covered one-third of that state’s Offutt Air Force Base, near Bellevue, home to the US Strategic Command.
At least 30 buildings were flooded by up to eight feet of water and 30 more structures damaged on the base, the Omaha World-Herald reported, citing a base spokeswoman.
The National Weather Service reported some of the region’s larger rivers were running at record high levels, causing levee breaks. Some small towns and communities have been cut off by floods while others were short of fresh drinking water.
Streets in Lincoln, Nebraska’s capital, were barely visible as high water surrounded homes, cars and trees, according to photos released to Reuters by state authorities. Elsewhere in the state, one highway near Waterloo was submerged, and piles of debris and damaged roads were visible in Niobrara.
Floodwater climbed up the sides of buildings at Camp Ashland, an Army National Guard facility in Ashland, Nebraska.
Warmer temperatures will speed the pace of snow melt across the region and add to already swollen rivers, the NWS said, possibly forcing more evacuations in communities along the Missouri River on the Nebraska and Iowa border, as well as along the Elkhorn and Platte rivers in Nebraska.
“There could be issues across portions of Nebraska and Kansas for the next seven days,” NWS meteorologist Jim Hayes said.