By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korea continues to violate U.N. Security Council (UNSC) sanctions through illicit means of importing and exporting prohibited items, including oil and coal, while it may also be keeping its workers in other countries to earn hard currency, a U.N. panel of experts said in a report published Monday.
"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has continued to violate Security Council resolutions through the illicit import of refined petroleum products through ship-to-ship transfers and direct deliveries," said the report, posted on the website of the world body.
Under UNSC sanctions, the North is banned from importing more than 500,000 barrels of refined petroleum products a year.
The panel noted the communist state appears to have already exceeded the limit, citing "imagery, data and calculations" covering just the first five months of the year from 43 U.N. member states.
"The member states estimated that deliveries of refined petroleum products to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea during that period alone already far exceeded the aggregate amount of 500,000 barrels set by the Security Council as the annual ceiling for 2020," the report said.
It said China and Russia, the North's closest neighbors, have dismissed the report, arguing it was based on "assumptions and estimations" and that there was no sufficient information and evidence to conclude that the ceiling has been exceeded.
The U.N. panel noted the North also used ship-to-ship transfers to export its coal, one of main sources of hard currency for the impoverished North.
It also suspected the communist state may be continuing to earn income by sending its workers to overseas countries while all U.N. member countries were required to repatriate all North Korean workers by Dec. 22, 2019.
"To date, only around 40 member states have submitted final implementation reports on the repatriation requirement," the report said.
Still, the panel noted some of the countries may have been unable to repatriate North Korean workers due to travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
North Korea closed its borders shortly after neighboring China and South Korea reported outbreaks of the new coronavirus.
"The re-entry into the Democratic People's Republic of Korea of its own nationals and the entry of foreign nationals remains generally prohibited," the U.N. panel said.
In another possible violation of the UNSC sanctions that also prohibit any shipments to and from North Korea of materials, equipment and technology that can be used for weapons development, the U.N. panel noted at least two officials from a North Korean arms dealer continued to remain in Iran at the start of this year.
"A Member State informed the Panel that representatives of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, Ha Won Mo and Kim Hak Chol, were both in the Islamic Republic (of) Iran as of the beginning of 2020," it said.
The Korea Mining Development Trading Corp. (KOMID), North Korea's primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventions weapons, has been subject to U.N. Security Council sanctions since 2009. It has also been on a U.S. list of North Korean companies and individuals subject to U.S. sanctions since 2015.
With regard to the North's nuclear and ballistic missile development programs, the U.N. panel noted the communist state may have developed "miniaturized nuclear devices" that can fit into the warheads of its ballistic missiles, citing assessments by several U.N. member states.
North Korea has so far staged six nuclear tests, with the last one held in September 2017.
It has not conducted any nuclear or long-range missile launch test since.
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