DN - Defence Notes

UN reports on North Korea challenges

18th September 2017 - 12:09 GMT | by Wendell Minnick in Taipei

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The United Nations released a new panel of experts (POE) report on 5 September under Security Council Resolution 2345, which explored North Korean missile developments and how Pyongyang acquired the technology needed to build nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Of particular interest, section 33 on page 16 demonstrated the frustration many Western analysts have with China’s participation in North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes. 

The POE noted that a military parade in Pyongyang on 15 April exhibited Chinese-made trucks hauling submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The vehicles were identified as Sinotruks and emanated from the manufacturer’s Howo 6x6 series. 

Due to complaints, China investigated the sale and acknowledged it had been approved for export for civilian use and was not under embargo by the UN Security Council. The parent company of Sinotruk is the China National Heavy Duty Truck Group Corporation.

‘The findings show that support from the outside cannot be cut completely, and there are always ways around sanctions,’ said Markus Schiller, an analyst for Germany-based ST-Analytics. ‘This is true not only for trucks, but for every piece of hardware.’

Schiller said that only a complete trade stop, including China and Russia, could have a significant impact on North Korean WMD programmes. Schiller doubted China and Russia will agree to that: ‘It is impossible to implement and impossible to execute, and North Korea would go rabid with that.’ 

North Korea continues to use sophisticated tactics, techniques and procedures to get around sanctions, and it is aided by weak enforcement and bad reporting by nations such as those in Africa and Southeast Asia, said Bruce Bechtol, author of the book North Korea and Regional Security in the Kim Jong-un Era: A New International Security Dilemma.

Bechtol said the POE report confirmed that North Korea is still actively supplying Syria with chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, a plethora of conventional weapons (including machine guns and artillery) and support staff and advisors to enable Syria to effectively use these conventional weapon systems and surface-to-air missiles (SAM).

‘In short, the Syrian civil war continues to be a big boost to the North Korean weapons and proliferation industry – which is rarely talked about in the US press,’ Bechtol highlighted.

The report also demonstrated North Korea’s strong military involvement in Africa, including Angola, Congo, Eritrea, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda and Tanzania. ‘North Korea is making hundreds of millions of dollars a year from proliferation and related military,’ Bechtol said.

The UN paper stated that North Korea provided training to the Angolan presidential guard and refurbished Angolan naval vessels. In the Congo, North Korea provided military training to the presidential guard, including the provision of 9mm firearms. 

In Eritrea, Pyongyang supplied arms and material used by the military. North Korea provided Mozambique with man-portable air defence systems, SAMs and radars. In Namibia, North Korea is assisting with construction of the new National Central Intelligence Service headquarters.

Furthermore, North Korea provided training to the Ugandan military and police, in particular the air force. In Tanzania, North Korea repaired and upgraded Pechora SAM systems and it is reportedly repairing and upgrading its P-12 air defence radar.

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