A Familiar Story: The New UN Report on North Korean Sanctions Implementation

March 16, 2017
Andrea Berger

This article originally appeared on 38 North on March 16, 2017.

Two weeks ago, the United Nations Panel of Experts tasked with monitoring DPRK sanctions implementation, issued its latest annual report. These reports remain essential reading for anyone working on North Korea, nonproliferation or sanctions evasion. Advance coverage in the press focused on the scale, sophistication, and widespread success of North Korean sanctions evasion, and highlighted the lack of political will to implement and enforce sanctions on the part of many member states. The South China Morning Post shone a spotlight on North Korean sanctions-busting activities in Africa, which have been a consistent feature of UN reporting. Foreign Policy concluded “that China has proved a fickle partner at best in Washington’s effort to stymie Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.”

North Korean Flag in Pyongyang

North Korean Flag in Pyongyang
Source: Flickr


The reappearance of familiar names in 2016 is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it means that the sanctions regime’s design and implementation is failing to create a wide and enduring disruption effect on North Korea’s illicit activity overseas, driven by the fact that state implementation remains poor. Second, it means that the North Korean actors in the Panel’s previous proliferation-focused investigations also engage in more recently sanctioned activities, such as trade in minerals. Directly or indirectly, much of North Korea’s commercial activity is therefore sanctionable. In short, the report shows the sanctions regime to be a blunt instrument that few countries have so far been willing to use.

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