The massive Panel of Experts report (Steph Haggard’s analysis here) confirms a tremendous amount of material on sanctions violations already in the public domain as well as breaking new ground. North Korea increasingly relies on countries with weak governance to evade sanctions; today we look at the African connection.
Because of the ubiquity of governance problems in sub-Saharan Africa, and the DPRK’s historical association with African independence movements, a lot of sanctions busting seems to have migrated to the African theatre.
To start, 43 African countries, including North Korean allies such as Zimbabwe, have not submitted National Implementation Reports required under UNSCR 2270 (2016). But to be clear, the Africans are not alone in this regard: major countries such as India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Portugal have also not submitted reports. In the Western Hemisphere, Cuba is MIA. So, there is a basic issue of reporting and cooperation. This theme recurs in numerous instances: the POE points out problems, asks the relevant government for clarification, and gets no response. Again, this is not limited to African respondents. But because of the ubiquity of governance problems in sub-Saharan Africa, and the DPRK’s historical association with African independence movements, a lot of sanctions busting seems to have migrated to the African theatre.
A few examples:
In the area of arms trafficking and military cooperation more broadly, the POE has uncovered unresolved issues in Namibia (arms production), Uganda (military training), Sudan (arms), Eritrea (arms, via a front in Malaysia), Egypt (missile parts, via a DPRK entity, Rungrado General Trading Corporation, also involved in labor exports to Poland), and Mozambique (tank parts).
With regard to financial services, the report documents instances where sanctioned North Korean banks were able to establish operations in Zambia, Nigeria, and the Seychelles, and conduct dollar transactions.
With regard to shipping (see past posts here and here), the report documents the whack-a-mole game of reflagging DPRK-controlled vessels. Despite the delisting of some North Korean ships by Tanzania, the country has allowed other vessels, delisted elsewhere, to be reflagged in Tanzania (and the Marshall Islands).
A recurrent theme in many of these cases is the use of DPRK diplomatic personnel to execute these transactions, or alternatively, agents of North Korean sanctions evasion entities accredited to embassies as diplomatic personnel. Sometimes, as in the cases of diplomats assigned to Angola, Uganda, and Egypt, these individuals appear to have used their ability to travel as diplomats to conduct sanctions evasion activities in third countries as well.