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.”


‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

Updated 16 min 45 sec ago
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‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

  • A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide”
  • Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers

YANGON: Myanmar must “show results” to convince Rohingya refugees to return, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday at the end of his first visit to Myanmar since the crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
A brutal military campaign in western Rakhine state forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.
Around one million Rohingya now languish in sprawling refugee camps from various waves of persecution.
A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide” and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started preliminary investigations.
During his visit Grandi spoke with both Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence.
He also held discussions with officials in capital Naypyidaw, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing all talks as “constructive.”
“My message is: ‘please accelerate’, because it has been very slow in the implementation in this first year. We need to show results,” he told AFP in an interview in Yangon.
“This is not enough to convince people to come back,” he said.
Grandi visited the camps in Bangladesh in April.
The two countries have signed a repatriation agreement but so far virtually no refugees have returned, fearing for their safety and unconvinced they will be granted citizenship.
Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers and the community has had its rights eroded over decades.
Gaining independent access to northern Rakhine is difficult with most journalists, observers and diplomats only allowed on brief chaperoned visits.
Grandi defended the UNHCR’s involvement in a plan by the Bangladeshi government to move some 100,000 refugees onto low-lying island Bhashan Char.
The area in the Bay of Bengal is prone to flooding and cyclones.
Rights groups oppose the scheme that has also so far been universally rejected by the Rohingya themselves.
The refugee agency must be “involved” to have the necessary information in order to take a stance on the issue, Grandi said.
“We’re still at that stage, no more than that.”
He also visited camps near Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, where nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been confined since a previous bout of violence in 2012.
Myanmar has announced it will close the camps but many are skeptical the displaced will enjoy more freedoms.
Grandi said the UNHCR would reconsider its role in providing services if conditions did not substantially improve.
“To simply transform the camps, upgrade the camps, upgrade the houses, for example, but leave them in the same situation will not be a solution,” he said.