North Korea evades sanctions to the tune of $200 million

A panel of experts has reported to the UN that sanctions against North Korea have not done a good job in stemming the flow of exports, allowing the regime of Kim Jong-un to rake in more than $200 million last year.

About 90% of North Korean exports are banned, according to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. But by various means of subterfuge and chearing, North Korea is able to get around restrictions.

CBS News:

In September, 2017, after the U.N. Security Council passed biting sanctions against North Korea in response to the country's latest nuclear test, an earlier U.N. report of the same panel said that "lax enforcement" allowed the rogue nation to earn several hundred million dollars, reports CBS News' Pamela Falk. 

U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley said sanctions now ban well over 90 percent of North Korea's exports reported in 2016.

The panel of experts said the expansion of U.N. sanctions hasn't been matched by the "political will," international coordination, and allocation of resources to implement them.

The panel was also able to obtain new tracking software from an Israeli company at a discounted price, an expert told CBS News. 

But, the report makes it clear that, despite U.N. efforts and intelligence agencies assistance, North Korea has used extraordinary methods to evade sanctions, Falk reports. 

"This year could represent a critical window of opportunity before a potential miscalculation with disastrous implications for international peace and security," the experts said.

According to the report, the panel investigated North Korea's ongoing ballistic missile cooperation with Syria and Myanmar.

It also investigated illegal ship-to-ship transfers of oil "comprising a multimillion-dollar business that is driving an international network of brokers and ship charterers as well as unwitting global commodity trading companies and oil suppliers."

North Korea also continued its illegal coal exports by combining deceptive navigation patterns, trans-shipment through third countries and fraudulent documentation "to obscure the origin of the coal."

The report said North Korea exported coal to China, Malaysia, South Korea, Russia and Vietnam in 2017 in violation of sanctions.

It said "a network of foreign traders responsible for violations of the coal ban operates through numerous front companies" registered in Australia, British Virgin Islands, China, Hong Kong, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Seychelles and the United Kingdom.

Many of the countries involved are unaware the origin of the prohibited goods, a panel expert told CBS News. 

We had the same problen enforcing sanctions against Iran. It's just impossible to keep track of thousandes of ships and trillions of dollars of trade without at least some contraband slipping through the cracks.

It's no accident that much of the cheating involves Russia and China. The governments of those countries may pledge to abide by the sanctions. But the opportunity for massive profits on sanctioned goods is too good to pass up. The companies that help North Korea evade sanctions may not be directly connected to the governments of Russia and China. But the chances are pretty good that some government officials are skimming profits or are bribed to look the other way.

Why? North Korean belligerency against the United States serves a purpose for both countries; it keep America occupied and our attention away from places like the Ukraine and South China Sea. So keeping the Kim regime afloat is in both countries vital interest. China, especially, cannot afford the North Korean government to collapse. They already have problems with North Korean refugees escaping from Kim's hellish regime and the prospect of another famine where millions of North Koreans could flee and enter China along its 900 mile border with the North is unacceptable.

Whether countries, or private companies, are aware that they are buying North Korean goods is beside the point. The sanctions are failing and Kim is getting ever closer to building a nuclear arsenal that could threaten the US and the ballistic missiles he needs to deliver them.