North Korea violated United Nations sanctions to earn nearly $200 million in 2017 from banned commodity exports, according to a confidential report by independent U.N. monitors, which also accused Pyongyang of supplying weapons to the Assad regime and Myanmar.
The report to a U.N. Security Council sanctions committee, seen by Reuters last Friday, said North Korea had shipped coal to ports, including in Russia, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam, mainly using false paperwork that showed countries such as Russia and China as the coal origin, instead of North Korea.
The 15-member council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke funding for Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.
"The DPRK [North Korea] is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system," the U.N. monitors wrote in the 213-page report.
The monitors said they had investigated ongoing ballistic missile cooperation between the Assad regime and Myanmar, including more than 40 previously unreported North Korea shipments between 2012 and 2017 to Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Centre, which oversees the country's chemical weapons program.
The investigation has shown "further evidence of arms embargo and other violations, including through the transfer of items with utility in ballistic missile and chemical weapons programs," the U.N. monitors wrote.
They also inspected cargo from two North Korea shipments intercepted by unidentified countries en route to Syria. Both contained acid-resistant tiles that could cover an area equal to a large scale industrial project, the monitors reported.
One country, which was not identified, told the monitors the seized shipments can "be used to build bricks for the interior wall of a chemical factory."
The Assad regime agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013. However, diplomats and weapons inspectors suspect the regime may have secretly maintained or developed a new chemical weapons capability.
The U.N. monitors also said one country, which they did not identify, reported it had evidence that Myanmar received ballistic missile systems from North Korea, along with conventional weapons, including multiple rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles.