Sanctions delay North’s nuclear arms program

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Sanctions delay North’s nuclear arms program

Increasingly tough financial sanctions, an arms embargo and other international restrictions on trade with North Korea have significantly delayed expansion of Pyongyang’s illicit nuclear arms program, according to a confidential report by a UN panel of experts seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

The latest annual report by the UN sanctions-monitoring group comes as the United States seeks to persuade China that applying economic and other sanctions against its neighbor is crucial to halting the program.

“While the imposition of sanctions has not halted the development of nuclear and ballistic missile programs, it has in all likelihood considerably delayed [North Korea’s] timetable and, through the imposition of financial sanctions and the bans on the trade in weapons, has choked off significant funding which would have been channeled into its prohibited activities,” the 52-page report said.

The document covers the period up through last month, diplomats said, so it was too early to measure the effect the latest round of UN sanctions adopted in March.

In the report to the UN Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee, the panel also recommended sanctioning three North Korean entities and 12 individuals.

It will be up to the 15-nation council whether or not it follows the recommendations.

The three entities the panel said should be blacklisted are the newly created Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry, the Munitions Industry Department of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP), and the State Space Development Bureau.

The individuals the panel wants sanctioned include the atomic energy industry minister, once he is nominated, and four senior officials at the KWP Munitions Industry Department.

It also recommends the blacklisting of one national from Kazakhstan, Aleksandr Viktorovich Zykov, and two from Ukraine, Iurii Lunov and Igor Karev-Popov, for their involvement in North Korea-related arms deals.

The panel listed North Korea’s February nuclear test and its rocket launches as examples of violations of UN Security Council resolutions that have increased international concerns about Pyongyang. It was North Korea’s third nuclear test since 2006.

Pyongyang is under UN, U.S., European Union and other sanctions, including a UN ban on all arms exports, due to its nuclear weapons program.

Among potential violations the panel listed were the seizure by a UN member state of aluminum alloys suspected to be nuclear-related in August and the seizure of missile-related items bound for Syria in May last year.

Previous breaches included shipments of arms-related material to Syria in November 2010 and rocket fuses for Iran in 2008, the panel report said.

“The DPRK [North Korea] has continued its efforts to import and export items relevant to missile and nuclear programs and arms,” it said.

The panel said countries should be on the lookout for North Korean attempts to procure the following key items for Pyongyang’s nuclear program - maraging steel, frequency changers, high-strength aluminum alloy, fibrous or filamentary materials, filament winding machines, ring magnets, semi-hard magnetic alloys in thin strip form and other items.

UN diplomats said that China, North Korea’s principal ally and trading partner, continues to play a key role in enabling Pyongyang to skirt sanctions, though this is not discussed explicitly in the panel’s report.

Beijing has vowed full implementation of the latest round of UN sanctions adopted by the council in March, though it remains unclear how much China was keeping that promise.

Recently, the Bank of China shut the account of North Korea’s main foreign exchange bank, the state-run Foreign Trade Bank, which was hit with U.S. sanctions in March after Washington accused it of helping finance Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

That closure was the first significant, publicly announced step taken by a Chinese firm to curb dealings with North Korea.

Washington has urged Beijing to apply economic sanctions against North Korea to help cripple a nuclear arms program that Beijing has made clear it disapproves of, diplomats say.

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