UN report: North Korea still pursuing nuclear, missile programs
(CNN) — A confidential United Nations report has accused North Korea of continuing to develop nuclear and missile programs in violation of international sanctions.
The report, provided to CNN by a UN source on Friday, was prepared by independent experts who submit their findings every six months to the UN North Korea Sanctions Committee of the Security Council.
The report also says North Korea is defying sanctions through diplomats and others based overseas and continues to sell conventional weapons to fuel violence.
The UN report appears to confirm reporting by the Washington Post earlier in the week, which suggested new information, including satellite images, show that North Korea could be in the process of building new missiles.
The UN report comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in Singapore for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial meeting, told reporters that he was an advocate of keeping pressure on Pyongyang as the country has yet to take any concrete steps to dismantling its nuclear program.
“I’ve also emphasized the importance of maintaining diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea, to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of the DPRK as agreed to by Chairman Kim,” he said, referring to the isolated north Asian nation by its official title, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the gathering of Southeast Asian diplomats, Pompeo said he had called for “the complete shutdown of illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum destined for North Korea.”
The UN report says that Pyongyang has “flouted” the caps on its import of petroleum and crude oil as well as a coal ban imposed last year through “illicit” ship-to-ship transfers of over 500,000 barrels of refined petroleum products, as well as oil and coal at sea.
These ship-to-ship transfers involve “increasingly sophisticated evasion techniques” which involve manipulating the vessels’ Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) and also disguising DPRK tankers, according to the report. The US recently provided intelligence about illegal ship-to-ship transfers along with photographs to the sanctions committee.
If accurate, North Korea is now in violation of a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution, which means all UN member countries would have to “immediately” halt all transfers to North Korea.
The report says North Korea also continues to defy an arms embargo, and financial sanctions — which it calls “some of the most poorly implemented and actively evaded measures of the sanctions regime.”
At the gathering’s “family photo,” featuring all the region’s ministers, Pompeo went over to North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and the two men shook hands.
Ri said Saturday that denuclearization should happen phase by phase and referred to a Korean proverb “slowly but surely” when describing the country’s preferred approach to denuclearization.
“A fastest and most reliable shortcut to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is to build confidence in good faith through taking one-by-one and phase-by phase simultaneous actions,” Ri said in a statement posted in the press room of the ASEAN summit.
He also condemned the US for “raising its voice louder” to maintain sanctions on his country and warned that “impatience is not helpful at all for building confidence.”
Pompeo points finger at Russia
Pompeo also singled out Russia, accusing it of helping Pyongyang evade UNSC resolutions.
“We’ve seen reports that Russia is allowing for joint ventures with North Korean firms and granting new work permits to North Korean guest workers,” said Pompeo.
“This is a serious issue and something that we will discuss with Moscow,” he added.
On Friday, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions on a Russian bank accused of helping conduct transactions for a North Korean bank.
Even before he’d stepped off the plane in Singapore, Pompeo had been critical of Pyongyang’s apparent heel-dragging.
While en route to the meeting, he said that Kim’s regime was in violation of UNSC resolutions, and that “we still have a ways to go” before realizing the reality of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
“Chairman Kim made a commitment to denuclearize,” he told reporters Friday. “The world demanded that he do so in the UN Security Council resolutions.
“To the extent they are behaving in a manner inconsistent with that, they are in violation of one or both of the UN Security Council resolutions. We can see we still have a ways to go to achieve the ultimate outcome we’re looking for.”
Last month, Pompeo was repeatedly asked to provide clarity on the issue of North Korea during a fiery Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, as US lawmakers pressed for verifiable evidence to back up claims that talks are headed in the right direction.
Responding to accusations that the US was “being taken for a ride,” Pompeo moved to reassure lawmakers that US President Donald Trump was in “a far better position than either of the two (past) administrations.”
“We have made incredibly clear that we will continue to enforce that sanctions regime until such time as denuclearization as we have defined it is complete,” he said, repeatedly claiming that the North Koreans understand the US definition of denuclearization.
“I will concede that there is an awful long way to go,” Pompeo added. “I am not trying to oversell the accomplishments that we have had toward the path of denuclearization to date, there is a great deal of work to do.”
However, when pressed by lawmakers on progress being made on denuclearization, Pompeo also admitted that North Korea continues to produce weapons-grade fissile material.
Pompeo’s meetings with his North Korean counterparts have yielded mixed results. He originally traveled to Pyongyang in April, paving the way for the historic summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore, but other meetings haven’t gone so well.
In the wake of a meeting in the North Korean capital in early July, one source with knowledge of the discussions said it went “as badly as it could have gone.”
“The North Koreans were just messing around, not serious about moving forward,” the source told CNN’s Michelle Kosinski, adding that Pompeo had been promised a meeting with the North Korean leader, and so not getting that meeting sent a big message.
Even when Pompeo described the high-level negotiations as “productive” and insisted progress was made, the North poured cold water on the talks, saying the “attitude” of the US was “regrettable” and not in the spirit of the two leaders’ June 12 summit.
A statement carried by state-run news agency KCNA in the wake of Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang said: “The US is fatally mistaken if it went to the extent of regarding that the (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) would be compelled to accept, out of its patience, the demands reflecting its gangster-like mindset.”
Pompeo brushed aside the comments, saying “if those requests were gangster-like, the world is a gangster,” and noting that the UN Security Council has been clear on what North Korea needs to achieve.