Archive for the ‘UN Security Council’ Category

Loopholes in UN sanctions against North Korea

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

A new article in 38 North by Hugh Griffiths and Lawrence Dermody.

Here is the introduction:

The latest United Nations report on North Korean sanctions has once again highlighted the role of foreign companies in cases of UN sanctions evasion. TheMarch 2014 report by the independent Panel of Experts assigned to monitor sanctions against the DPRK on behalf of the UN noted the widespread involvement of foreign companies.

A new SIPRI study backs up the UN report and goes further, showing that foreign company involvement in North Korean sanctions violations is not new and is more than just a trend-foreign companies and individuals travelling on foreign passports constitute an overwhelming majority of those identified as involved in the violation of both multilateral and unilateral sanctions dating as far back as 2004.While the majority of companies and individuals identified as involved in sanctions violations are either registered abroad or hold foreign passports, the international community continues to overwhelmingly target companies and individuals registered in North Korea. This targeting takes the form of “designations” by which the United Nations and the European Union together with countries such as Australia, Japan and the US order asset freezes on particular companies, as well as trade bans, and slap travel bans on named individuals traveling on North Korean passports.

These dynamics–identified for the first time in the SIPRI study–may have implications for policy-makers seeking to apply new rounds of sanctions on North Korea in response to any fourth nuclear test.

Most firms designated by the UN and the EU as well as Australia, Japan and the United States are North Korean-registered trading companies while virtually no North Korean transportation companies have been designated. In conREAD MOREtrast to trading companies which have few fixed assets and can easily switch name and other forms of corporate identity, transportation companies that utilize aircraft and ships are easier to monitor and track despite name-changes. Given the key role that transportation plays in the logistics of sanctions evasion, the SIPRI study provides a number of recommendations in support of these and other findings….

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New UN Panel of Experts report on DPRK released

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

You can downlod all three of their reports here.

Marcus Noland comments here.

Lots more information at the Economic Statistics Page.

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UNSC Resolution 2094: Response to DPRK’s third nuclear test

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

UPDATE 6 (2013-3-11): Here is the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs response to the UNSC Resolution 2094. As you can imagine, they do not approve.

UPDATE 5 (2013-3-8): The full official resolution can be read here.  Here is the DPRK response to 2094. Here is some information on the Chinese response. Here is some more analysis/commentary from Scott Snyder in The Diplomat. Choson Ilbo reports that large North Korean bank accounts exempt from sanctions.

UPDATE 4 (2013-3-7): The resolution has passed 15-0.  Read more at the BBC, Washington Post, New York Times. Marcus Noland commentary here and here. Victor Cha hereNK Leadership Watch has more on the events in Pyongyang

UPDATE 3 (2013-3-7): Once made public, the resolution will be posted here. Steve Herman (via Adam Cathcart) tweeted a link to the draft resolution which has been uploaded to Scribed. It is dated yesterday (2013-3-6).

UPDATE 2 (2012-3-7): Here is a Press Release from the US mission to the UNSC that went out this morning on the new sanctions (Resolution 2094). Thanks to Aidan Foster-Carter.

For reasons of brevity, I have put the entire document into this PDF for download.

UPDATE 1 (2013-3-7): Yonhap offers details on the unpublished sanctions proposal put forth by the US and China:

The three North Korean arms dealers are: Yon Chong-nam, the chief representative for the Korea Mining Developing Trading Corp (KOMID); Ko Chol-chae, the deputy chief representative for the KOMID; and Mun Chong-chol, an official at Tanchon Central Bank, the resolution showed.

KOMID is described by the resolution as North Korea’s “primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons,” while the North Korean bank is the “main DPRK (North Korea) financial entity for sales of conventional arms, ballistic missiles, and goods related to the assembly and manufacturing of such weapons.”

The two North Korean entities are the Second Academy of Natural Sciences, which is responsible for research and development of the North’s advanced weapons systems, including “missiles and probably nuclear weapons,” and the Korea Complex Equipment Import Corp. linked to the North’s “military-related sales,” according to the draft.

The Security Council is set to vote on the draft resolution on Thursday in New York.

The new sanctions will also focus on the DPRKs shipping, air, and “financial” industries:

The Security Council “decides that all states shall inspect all cargo within or transiting through their territory that has originated in the DPRK, or that is destined for the DPRK,” the draft said.

It also “calls upon states to deny permission to any aircraft to take off from, land in or overfly their territory, if they have information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the aircraft contains items” banned by previous U.N. resolutions, the document said.

It also makes it difficult for North Korea to move in and out “bulk cash,” in an effort to squeeze the North Korean elite’s access to hard currency.

The Security Council also calls on all states to “exercise enhanced vigilance over DPRK diplomatic personnel so as to prevent such individuals from contributing to the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs,” it said.

The U.N.’s powerful body “expresses its determination to take further significant measures in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test,” the draft warned.

The DPRK’s Uranium enrichment program also gets a mention:

Apparently mindful of the North’s uranium concerns, the draft resolution includes Pyongyang’s uranium enrichment program for the first time, condemning “all the DPRK’s ongoing nuclear activities, including its “uranium enrichment.”

The North claims its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful energy development, but outside experts believe that it would give the country a new source of fission material to make atomic bombs, in addition to its widely known plutonium-based nuclear weapons program.

The DPRK, has of course, issued a response

In response to the proposed U.N. sanctions and ongoing Seoul-Washington joint military drills, the North’s military threatened to scrap the Korean War cease-fire.

Kim Yong-chol, a hard-line North Korean general suspected of involvement in a series of provocations against the South, read the statement on state TV, saying the North “will completely declare invalid” the Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

The North also said it will cut off a military phone line at the truce village of Panmunjom.

South Korea’s military responded to the North’s bellicose threats with a verbal salvo, warning it would strike back at the North and destroy its “command leadership,” if provoked by Pyongyang.

ORIGINAL POST (2013-3-5): According to the New York Times:

The United Nations Security Council moved closer on Tuesday to expanding sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear and ballistic missile activities. The United States and China introduced a resolution that would target North Korean bankers and overseas cash couriers, tighten inspections of suspect ship and air cargo, and subject the country’s diplomats to invasive scrutiny and increased risk of expulsion.

Passage of the measure, drafted in response to the third North Korean underground nuclear test three weeks ago, seemed all but assured, in part because China — North Korea’s major benefactor — participated in drafting the language. It would be the fourth Security Council sanctions resolution on North Korea, which has defied the previous measures with increasing belligerence. A vote was expected on Thursday.

Infuriated, North Korea vowed to scrap the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War and threatened to attack the United States with what the North Korean government news agency called an arsenal of diverse “lighter and smaller nukes.”

American officials played down the North Korean warning, which echoed bombastic admonitions that have become part of the standard fare from the North. Still, the threat of a North Korean nuclear attack seemed all the more provocative, coming two days after North Korea conveyed a message of friendship to a visiting American group that included Dennis Rodman, the former basketball star.

Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, who introduced the resolution in a closed session of the 15-member Security Council, told reporters afterward that it “builds upon, strengthens and significantly expands the scope of the strong U.N. sanctions already in place.”

For the first time, she said, the resolution would target “the illicit activities of North Korean diplomatic personnel, North Korean banking relationships, illicit transfers of bulk cash and new travel restrictions.” In the past, North Korea has been accused of running extensive counterfeiting and illegal drug enterprises, to raise much-needed hard currency.

Ms. Rice declined to predict whether the North would respond with another nuclear test or other retaliation. “All I can tell you is that the international community is united and very firm in its opposition to North Korea’s illicit nuclear and missile programs,” she said. “And the more provocations that occur, the more isolated and impoverished, sadly, North Korea will become.”

The Americans did not publicly release the resolution text. But a Security Council diplomat familiar with the measure, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the language may still be subject to revision, said it broke new ground with restrictions and prohibitions on North Korean banking transactions, new travel restrictions and increased monitoring of North Korean ship and air cargo.

The diplomat also said that the resolution added a special lubricant and valve, needed for uranium enrichment, to items that North Korea cannot import.

The resolution would also place greater scrutiny on North Korean diplomatic personnel who are suspected of carrying proscribed goods and cash under the guise of official business, exposing them to possible deportation. “We know there are diplomats out there cooking up deals and moving funds around,” the Security Council diplomat said.

Among the other provisions, the diplomat said the resolution also included new language aimed at enforcement that had been absent from the earlier resolutions. It requires, for example, that if a North Korean cargo vessel crew refuses a host country’s request for inspection, the host is under a legal obligation to deny the vessel port access.

If a cargo plane is suspected of carrying prohibited goods to or from North Korea, the resolution would urge, but not require, that it be denied permission to fly over any other country — a new provision that could affect China, which routinely permits North Korean flights over its territory.

Previous rounds of sanctions have blacklisted trading and financial firms believed to be directly involved with nuclear and missile work. The sanctions have also restricted the importation of luxury goods, an effort directed at the country’s ruling elite.

American officials said privately that the latest resolution did not go as far as they would have liked, reflecting China’s insistence that the punitive measures remain focused on discouraging North Korea’s nuclear and missile behavior and avoid actions that could destabilize the country and lead to an economic collapse.

But the text was stronger than what some North Korean experts had anticipated, particularly the measures that could slow or frustrate the country’s banking activities and extensive dependence on cash payments in its trade with other countries.

“Going after the banking system in a broad brush way is arguably the strongest thing on this list,” said Evans J. R. Revere, a former State Department specialist in East Asian and Pacific affairs, and now senior director at the Albright Stonebridge Group, a Washington-based consulting company. “It does begin to eat into the ability of North Korea to finance many things.”

Mr. Revere attributed North Korea’s reaction on Tuesday to an accumulation of perceived affronts: China’s cooperation in drafting the sanctions, the annual military exercises under way between the United States and South Korea, and a hardened attitude by the South’s newly elected president, Park Geun-hye.

“This is North Korea’s way of saying, ‘We know you guys are doing several things, and here is our response,’ ” Mr. Revere said.

Here is coverage in The Guardian.

Here is coverage in the Washington Post.

Here is coverage of the DPRK’s response in CNN.

Here is my archive post on the DPRK’s third nuclear test.

Here is a statement (in Korean) by the North Korean military.

Read the full story here:
U.N. Resolution to Aim at North Korean Banks and Diplomats
New York Times
Rick Gladstone
2013-3-5

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UNSC sanctions on the DPRK

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

On January 22, 2013, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2087–new sanctions on the DPRK. Here is the press release:

The Security Council, condemning the launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on 12 December 2012, which used ballistic missile technology in violation of the sanctions imposed on it, today demanded that the country not proceed with any further such activities and expressed its “determination to take significant action” in the event it did so.

In that connection, the Council demanded, through the unanimous adoption of resolution 2087 (2013), immediate compliance by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with its obligations under resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009), including that it abandon all nuclear weapons and nuclear programmes completely, verifiably and irreversibly.

It deplored the country’s violations of the measures imposed on it in 2006, and strengthened in 2009, including the use of bulk cash to evade sanctions, and underscored its concern over the supply, sale or transfer to or from that country or through States’ territories of any item that could contribute to the activities banned by those resolutions.

The Council recalled that States may seize and dispose of items consistent with its previous resolutions, and clarified that the methods for disposal included, but were not limited to, destruction, rendering inoperable, storage or transferring to another States other than the originating or destination States for disposal.

It further clarified that the sanctions banned the transfer of any items if a State involved in the transaction has reasonable grounds to believe that a designated individual or entity, under the previous resolutions, is the originator, intended recipient or facilitator of the item’s transfer.

In a related provision, the Council called for enhanced vigilance by Member States and directed the relevant sanctions Committee to issue an Implementation Assistance Notice in the event a vessel refused to allow an inspection authorized by its Flag State or if any vessel flagged by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea refused to be inspected, in line with its obligations.

Reaffirming its support for the six-party talks, the Council called for their resumption and urged all participants to intensify efforts to fully and expeditiously implement the 19 September 2005 Joint Statement issued by China.

The meeting was called to order at 3:08 p.m. and adjourned at 3:10 p.m.

You can see the full resolution here (PDF).

Here is the response from the US State Department:

Designation Of DPRK Entities Pursuant To Executive Order 13382 In Response To UN Security Council Resolution 2087

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 24, 2013

The United States welcomes the UN Security Council’s unanimous adoption on January 22 of UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2087, condemning North Korea’s launch of December 12, 2012, which used ballistic missile technology in violation of UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874. Once again, the international community has sent a clear, united signal that North Korean provocations that undermine international security and the global nonproliferation regime, like the December 2012 launch, will not be tolerated.

To implement our obligations pursuant to UNSCR 2087 and to impede the DPRK’s illicit WMD and ballistic missile programs, the Departments of State and the Treasury on January 24, 2013, designated several entities and individuals directly tied to North Korea’s proliferation activities. The Department of State designated one entity and two individuals pursuant to Executive Order 13382, which targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their supporters. These include the Korean Committee for Space Technology (KCST), KCST senior official Paek Chang-Ho, and General Manager of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station Chang Myong-Chin.

Information on the Department of the Treasury’s concurrent actions may be viewed at:

http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/default.aspx

The Korean Committee for Space Technology orchestrated the launches of the Taepo-Dong 2 via the satellite control center and Sohae launch area. The technology used to launch a satellite is virtually identical to and interchangeable with that used in an intercontinental ballistic missile. KCST has contributed directly to the DPRK’s long-range ballistic missile development efforts.

Paek Chang-Ho is a senior official and head of the satellite control center of KCST.

Chang Myong-Chin is the head of the launch center at which the launches took place.

These actions aim to disrupt North Korea’s continued WMD proliferation and procurement efforts that are in flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions. North Korea will continue to face isolation if it refuses to take concrete steps to address the concerns of the international community over its nuclear and missile programs.

More: Marcus Noland’s comments hereSlate.

UPDATE (2013-1-28): According to Yonhap, the DPRK regime is using the sanctions to unite public opinion behind leadership:

North Korea is using U.N. sanctions to unify public opinion behind the leadership and strengthen allegiance to the state, observers said Monday.

Observers in Seoul said Pyongyang places the utmost importance on the solidarity of the people whether it is in the pursuit of its “songun” or military-first politics or to build up the economy. They said recent media reports of foreign threats and the need to defend the sovereignty and dignity of the country is a move in this direction.
Incumbent leader Kim Jong-un has emphasized the importance of economic growth, while his late father placed greater emphasis on the military. North Korea’s current leader took power after the sudden death of Kim Jong-in in late 2011.

“The sudden flood of articles and stories highlighting external threats can be construed as a sign that Pyongyang wants to prop up Kim Jong-un’s weak public support base as well as the overall leadership,” a North Korean watcher said.

Others said that a spike in media reports calling on the people to defend North Korea’s independence may be a tell-tale sign that Kim Jong-un’s hold on power may not be strong as some predicted.

Reflecting these views, media outlets such as the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, Radio Pyongyang and Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), all claimed that the people are reacting strongly to calls by the powerful National Defense Commission last Thursday. The commission said future nuclear and rocket tests will have the United States in mind.

Rodong Sinmun said in an article in its Monday edition that the U.N. sanctions have fueled the firm conviction and will of the armed forces and the general public to defend the country.

The newspaper said that the all-out confrontation that can occur is a holy nationalist war.

Similar views were expressed by Radio Pyongyang on Sunday, which pointed out that the only way to deal with the United States and other outside hostile forces is to follow the military first policy.

KCNA said Saturday that foreign forces have hindered efforts to divert more attention to economic development and warned that as long as adversaries try to weaken the country, Pyongyang has no choice but to focus on the military.

The media reports come as the North’s foreign ministry, the defense commission and the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland all issued statements last week denouncing the U.N. sanctions and emphasizing the country’s resolve to build up its capability to defend itself.

Meanwhile, South Korean officials have warned the North not to detonate another nuclear device. If they do detonate a nuclear device, it will be difficult to engage in inter-Korean dialogue and economic exchange, they said.

Seoul military and diplomatic sources have speculated that the communist country can conduct a nuclear test if the leadership gives its approval. Pyongyang detonated two nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009, in the face of international condemnation.

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On DPRK efforts to join UN carbon market

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

UPDATE 14 (2012-12-13): Robert Winstanley-Chesters has some additional data here.

UPDATE 13 (2012-10-23): The DPRK has registered its second CDM project: Kumya Hydro Power Plant.

Here is the official UN web page containing all of the technical information.

Here is an older Google Earth satellite image featuring the approximate location of the dam and power station (39.554552°, 127.164363°):

The Hanns Seidel Foundation (Facebook page here) visited the site and took this photo:

The dam was also featured on the North Korean evening news on 2012-9-28–although domestically it is known as the “Kumya-gang Power station No. 2 (금야강2호발전소)”. You can see it here at the 3:36 mark:

UPDATE 12 (2012-8-16): DPRK’s first CDM project registered: Hamhung Hydro Power Plant No. 1

Pictured above: Chowon-ri, Jongphyong County (초원리, 정평군) on Google Earth (coordinates: 39.662431°, 127.315594°). The satellite imagery is too old to show the new dam and power station.

A valued reader notified me this morning that the DPRK’s first CDM project was registered in July: The Hamhung Hydro Power Plant No.1.

You can read more about the project on the UN web page here. As I understand it, the CER (the emissions rights) from the plant do not go directly to North Korea but to a Czech company who co-registered the project. It will become operational on January 1, 2013.

Here is KCTV footage showing the construction of the plant that aired on 2012-4-3:

 

UPDATE 11 (2012-6-5): In addition to the seven power plants submitted for approval below (update 10), the DPRK is involved in several other “Programmes of Activities (POAs)“.

You can see all the POAs by clicking here and selecting DPRK as “Host Country”.

Here is a summary:

1. Methane Utilization and Destruction Programme from Animal Waste Management System (AWMS) in DPR Korea

2. Methane Utilisation and Destruction Programme from Industrial Wastewater in DPR Korea

3. CarbonSoft Open Source PoA, LED Lighting Distribution: Emerging Markets

4. Coal Mine Methane Utilisation and Destruction Programme in DPR Korea

5. International water purification programme

6. CFL Lighting Scheme in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

UPDATE 10 (2012-6-2): The creator of Nord Korea Info passed along the following information on the DPRK’s CDM projects:

1. Naenara, one of the DPRK’s official news outlets, has posted numerous CDM documents.  You can see them here.

2. Information posted to the UNFCC web page on specific CDM projects:

A. Kumya Hydropower Plant
B. Ryesonggang Hydropower Plant No.3 (Comments)
C. Ryesonggang Hydropower Plant No.4 (Comments)
D. Ryesonggang Hydropower Plant No.5 (Comments)
E. Paekdusan Songun Youth 14MW Hydropower Project No.2
F. Wonsan Army-People Hydropower Project No.1 (Comments)
G. Hamhung Hydropower Plant No.1

UPDATE 9 (2012-5-31): Bloomberg Businessweek reports on the DPRK’s efforts to sell carbon credits:

[U]nder the terms of the [Kyoto] protocol, North Korea, as a developing country and a member of the United Nations, has the right to build clean energy projects that may apply for Certified Emission Reductions, or CERs, popularly known as carbon credits. The North Koreans can then sell them to a rich country or company that needs the credits to offset its own greenhouse gases. Dig into data from the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, and you will find seven North Korean projects registered for carbon trading.

This is where Miroslav Blazek comes in. Blazek, director of Czech company Topic Energo, acts as a link between North Korea and potential carbon credit buyers. He says his experience as manager of a tractor factory in socialist-era Czechoslovakia is invaluable for doing business with the communist North Koreans. “I can work with them because I understand how their system works,” he says. “If I send an e-mail and still don’t have a reply in several days, I know it’s not because they didn’t see it but because it had to work its way through the chain of command. For me it’s like a trip down memory lane.”

North Korea is now building seven hydroelecrtric plants, which provide some of the cleanest energy going. Most can earn tradable carbon credits. Blazek says the North Koreans “jumped” at the opportunity to get into carbon trading: “They immediately grasped that this is a way to make money.” Korea’s seven dams may generate as many as 241,000 CERs a year, worth almost €1 million ($1.3 million). “The projects are already in a relatively advanced phase,” says Ondrej Bores, director of carbon advisory services at Virtuse Energy in Prague, who’s worked with Blazek on other deals.

Still, selling anything made in North Korea has its challenges. More than 30 potential buyers pulled out because of the U.S. embargo on trade with North Korea. Blazek finally struck a deal with a Chinese-controlled conglomerate that needs credits to offset emissions from facilities in Europe. He won’t name the company, citing a confidentiality clause.

The Prague Post also reported on this story.

UPDATE 8 (2012-2-14): I have been notified that the certification program is proceeding. From a reader:

There has been a statement by the 1718 committee (on sanctions) that CDM projects in NK do not violate UN rules.

[Seven] hydropower plants did get their validation and underwent a process of “clarifications and corrections” as foreseen by UN rules. After the final report (which might have been already issued or might be issued soon) they will go for final vote to the UNFCCC.

Currently, North Korea works on projects as diverse as methane gas from coal mines, biogas and electricity-saving light bulbs.

UPDATE 7 (20120-1-23): Read an update on the Huichon Power Stations 1 & 2 and the Ryesonggang Power Stations 2 & 3 here.

UPDATE 6 (2011-7-11): It looks like none of the DPRK power stations have been approved by the UNFCC for the CDM program as of this date.  A reader notes:

[I] just searched through the entire CDM database with the category numbers for these projects, and as far as I can see none of these has got beyond validation phase['s] comments phase, and judging by some of the comments – “It is evident from the PDD [Project Design Document] that the values are consistent and it is definitely forged and cooked up values to show a non CDM project as a CDM project” – being one of the more polite, that I’d be amazed if they make it beyond that. [It] looks like the DPRK hasn’t got its environmental and managerial audit systems quite up to date yet.

UPDATE 5 (2011-7-11): I just checked the UNFCC web page, and it appears that in addition to the hydro power plants mentioned below, the North Koreans also submitted the “Energy Efficiency Improvement Project in Pyongyang Textile Factory” [sic] for carbon offsets on May 23, 2011. According to the UNFCC web page, the project is in the portfolio of the Carbon-Trade Division, GBCIO, Ministry of Foreign Trade.

UPDATE 4 (2011-7-11): DPRK begins construction of Ryesonggang Power Stations 3 and 4

Pictured above (Google Earth): Ryesonggang Youth Power Stations 1, 2, and 6 (례성강청년발전소).

Back in March of this year, the DPRK registered eight potential power plants with the UNFCC which it intended to construct to obtain carbon offset credits.  These eight hydro-power plants are:

Hamhung Hydropower Plant No.1
Hamhung 20MW Hydropower Plant No. 2
Kumya Hydropower Plant
Paekdusan Songun Youth 14MW Hydropower Project No.2
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 3
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 4
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 5
Wonsangunmin 20MW Hydropower Project No. 1

On June 25th the DPRK evening news featured footage of the construction of the Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 3 (례성강청년3호발전소).  I have uploaded the footage to YouTube and you can see it here.

On June 28th the DPRK evening news featured footage of the construction of the Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 4 (례성강청년4호발전소).  I have uploaded the footage to YouTube and you can see it here.

I have not had the time to pinpoint the exact locations of these power stations using Google Earth.  Since the imagery is older, it will take some time to match up the mountain contours.  However, we have a general idea where they are located: between the Ryesonggang Power Stations 2 and 6.  These are mapped out in the image at the top of this post.  The satellite imagery is of Thosan (토산군) and Kumchon (금천군) counties.

Since I have a job, am in graduate school, am a landlord, and running this web page, I have not had time to follow up with the UNFCC to see if they have approved these projects for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). If there is an enterprising journalist or reader who cares to find out the answer, please let me know.

UPDATE 3 (3/23/2011): According to the UNFCC web page (select Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the “Host Party” box), these are the eight power stations that have been submitted for consideration:

Hamhung Hydropower Plant No.1
Hamhung 20MW Hydropower Plant No. 2
Kumya Hydropower Plant
Paekdusan Songun Youth 14MW Hydropower Project No.2
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 3
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 4
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 5
Wonsangunmin 20MW Hydropower Project No. 1

The UNFCC web page does not mention the locations, size, or power generation capacity for most of the dams, but I am sure that information will trickle out over time. With the exception of the Kumya Power Station (See satellite image below), none of these facilities are visible on Google Earth–but related facilities are: the Paektusan Power Station 1 (See satellite image below) and Ryesonggang Power Station 1, 2, 6 (See satellite image below).  The Hamhung Power Stations are probably in or near Hamhung, and the Wonsangumin project is probably near Wonsan.

And according to an email from the UNFCC:

This list contains all the projects which have already started and for which a notification of CDM prior consideration has been submitted. This notification is necessary to prove that the incentive of the CDM was a decisive factor for taking up the project when a project has started before a project design document (PDD) has been published for global stakeholder consultation or a new methodology in connection with the project has been submitted. However, kindly note that these projects have not yet entered the CDM project cycle as lined out in the CDM rules, requirements and procedures, and to submission for registration has yet been made.

Further details on the CDM project cycle are available here: http://cdm.unfccc.int/Projects/diagram.html

More information will be added here as time passes.

UPDATE 2 (3/11/2011): The DPRK has apparently registered eight power plants with the UNFCC.  According to Reuters:

North Korea has registered eight hydroelectric plants with the United Nations, and if approved, could allow the world’s most reclusive state to sell carbon offsets to earn precious hard currency.

These hydropower projects were registered with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for prior consideration in getting carbon credits, some of which have a capacity of 20 megawatts, the UNFCCC website showed.

Prior consideration is the first step for accreditation toward the U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism that allows developing countries to earn tradeable carbon credits for emissions from clean-energy projects.

Bernhard Seliger, a messenger for North Korean officials on these projects, said the United Nations uploaded the information on Thursday after he submitted related forms on behalf of the North Korean government’s carbon trade division in late February.

“I have no idea when the U.N. makes a decision… North Korea has to finish the power plants, which up to now are only half-finished dams,” Seliger, Hanns Seidel Foundation’s representative in South Korea, told Reuters via email.

Analysts questioned the demand for carbon credits from North Korea, concerned the money might be siphoned off to nuclear arms or other military projects.

The UNFCC web page is not stranger friendly.

UPDATE 1 (3/8/2011): According to the Guardian:

North Korea hopes to earn much-needed hard currency by selling UN-backed carbon offsets from a series of hydro-power projects, as the country faces sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme.

If approved and registered by the UN, these would be the first projects for North Korea under a scheme called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This allows developing countries to earn tradeable carbon credits for emissions reductions from clean-energy projects.

Some analysts questioned the demand for carbon credits from North Korea, with fears the money might be siphoned off to nuclear arms or other military projects.

The government has asked the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany, which focuses on humanitarian issues, to act as a go-between by working with UN-approved verification agency TUV Nord.

According to Bernhard Seliger, the foundation’s representative in South Korea, North Korea is initially looking at trying to get approval for three hydro power plants of 7-8 megawatts (MW).

Seliger visited the three hydro-plant construction sites in the north-east corner of the country in January.

In a statement, TUV Nord confirmed the foundation had engaged their services.

“In this respect, TUV Nord intends to verify hydropower dams in North Korea once pre-registered with United Nations framework conventions on climate change [UNFCCC] via the Beijing branch of its Chinese subsidiary TUV Nord Guangzhou,” it said.

If registered, the plants could yield millions of euros over several years.

Beijing-based lawyer Tom Luckock, who specialises in projects that curb greenhouse gas emissions, estimated that an 8 MW hydro plant could yield about 23,000 UN offsets a year.

The offsets, called Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs), are generated from registered CDM projects, such as wind farms, that are rewarded for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The offsets currently trade at nearly €12 (£10) each and are bought by governments in rich nations that need to meet UN emissions reduction targets.

Europe is the biggest buyer, with large polluting firms allowed to buy the offsets to meet a portion of their emissions reduction targets under the EU’s emissions trading scheme.

“Finding ways to secure foreign currency is the priority for North Korea, which is linked to everything from food to raw material imports to boost reduced productivity,” said Cho Myung-chul, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.

Seliger said North Korea, which signed the UN’s Kyoto Protocol climate pact in 2005, was also interested in biomass power generation projects under the CDM.

The UN-approved national agency that assesses and approves CDM projects in North Korea was not available for comment.

Questions remained on demand for North Korean CERs.

“Even if they open up, who in the world wants to pay for North Korea that is blamed for its nuclear weapons programme?” said Choi Soo-young, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

Cho said the UN needed to prevent outside cash going into its nuclear development activities, while Luckock, of global law firm Norton Rose, said: “Their limited access to hard currency has to be a concern for buyers – the damages clauses will carry limited weight without some security there.”

Another challenge is that North Korea would have to make public its energy consumption and generation data and disclose information on the amount of energy linked to the hydro project.

“Annual inspection, constant measurement and energy flow posting on the [UNFCC] website – all these things are new for North Korea,” Seliger said.

According to the AFP:

“We are talking about eight power plants, with the smallest size about 7.5 megawatts. These are not big projects but small or medium-sized projects,” Bernhard Seliger told AFP.

None has yet been completed, he said.

“I saw some (construction) sites in South Hamkyong province but that’s not all. There are other plants in other regions,” Seliger said, adding that some of the projects are led by the UN Development Programme.

The Hanns Seidel Foundation has been working since 2003 to build the North’s development capacity, and in 2008 organised a seminar on carbon trading for Pyongyang officials at their request.

The tradeable credits, called Certified Emissions Reductions, are awarded for approved clean-energy projects such as hydropower plants or wind farms.

Big polluters elsewhere in the world can buy them as part of their efforts to cut emissions.

Seliger said his foundation is helping the North to prepare for the auditing process required to join the UN carbon credit trading system known as the Clean Development Mechanism.

“One good thing about this project is that it is very transparent, involving monitoring and auditing on an annual basis… I think it is very good for North Korea to participate in such an international regime,” said Seliger.

An official at a South Korean state agency, the Korea Energy Management Corp, said registration would take at least a year or two and it was unclear how much the North would be able to earn if approved.

The official, who declined to be identified, said a typical eight-megawatt hydropower plant could yield about 19,500 carbon credits each year, each of which was currently traded at 12 euros in global markets.

This would amount to around $327,000 a year.

But some buyers may shun the communist state, given its history of nuclear and missile development which has led to international sanctions.

“Government buyers will certainly shy away from dealing with the North,” said Koo Jung-Han, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Finance.

“But private companies have few reasons not to buy credits from the North as long as it can offer a competitively low price. However, the big question is whether the North will be able to build the plants without outside financiers.”

Koo said that countries hoping to buy carbon credits from upcoming overseas projects often encourage investment in the ventures by their own finance companies.

“But what kind of financial companies will take a plunge in projects in such a volatile, politically risky country like North Korea?”

The North suffers persistent power shortages even in the showpiece capital Pyongyang.

Many rural areas receive power only during key agricultural seasons, and must rely for the rest of the year on alternative fuels, according to a recent policy paper published by the Nautilus Institute think-tank.

Here are the web pages for the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the UNFCCC Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Program.

I am not sure which hydro power stations the DPRK is planning to submit to the UN, but many have been been highlighted in North Korean “media” in recent years:

Kumya River Dam
A dam is being constructed in Kumya County, South Hamgyong Province, to provide electrical power. Kim Jong-il last visited in August 4, 2010. It is just one of several dams under currently under construction in the DPRK.

Here is a satellite image of the Kumya dam’s construction (Google Earth: 11/25/2008,  39.574232°, 127.104736°)

This new reservoir will flood the locations of three villages (리): Ryongnam-ri (룡남리), Ryongsang-ri (룡상리), and Ryongchon-ri (룡천리).

Estimates of the reservoir size are made by me, but it is fairly obvious where the North Korean engineers expect the reservoir to flood because they have already relocated the villages from their former locations in the flood zone.

Kumjingang River Power Stations
Beginning in 2000, the DPRK has constructed three power stations on the Kumjin River (금진강) in  South Hamgyong Province.  The first was the Kumjingang Power Station (금진강발전소).  The second was the  Kumjingang Hungbong Youth Power Station (금진강흥봉청년발전소).  The third was the Kumjingang Kuchang Youth Power Station (금진강구창청년발전소).  All three are pictured below on Google Earth:

It does not appear that these projects have resulted in dislocated villages.

Wonsan Youth Power Stations
Below is a satellite image of the Wonsan Youth Power Stations No’s. 1-4 (원산청년발전소).   These projects required the construction of both the Kuryong Reservoir (구룡저수지) and an appx 8.5 mile (13.69km) tunnel to link the hydro power stations with their power source.  The inaugural ceremony for these facilities was on January 10, 2009.

The construction of the Kuryong Reservoir resulted in the dislocation of three villages: Kuryong-ri (구룡리), Konja-ri (건자리), and Haerang-ri (해랑리).

Orangchon Power Station No. 1
Kim Jong-il offered guidance at the Orangchon Power Station (어랑천1호발전소) in February 2007.  This facility will probably not be submitted to the UN for scrutiny because it lies just outside the security perimeter of what human rights groups assert is Kwan-li-so No. 16.

Anbyon Youth Power Stations No’s 1 & 2
The Anbyon Power Stations (안변청년1-2호발전소, 38.954400°, 127.538912°) are powered by waters from the Imnam Reservoir (임남저수지) via an underground tunnel nearly 45km in length.  Much more here.

The Imnam Reservoir flooded Chondo County’s capital city as well as appx 14 villages. The South Korean government was so worried about the Imnam Reservoir being used as a weapon that they built a dam downstream to prevent flooding should the DPRK release a large volume of water (38.209539°, 127.848760°).

Ryesonggang Youth Power Stations 1-6
Some of the Ryesonggang Youth Power Stations (례성강청년1-6호발전소, 38.367696°, 126.781096°) appear to be under construction in North Hwanghae Province.  The North Korean “media” has only broadcast images of the Ryesonggang Power Stations 1, 2, and 6 (all completed), so I presume that power stations 3, 4, and 5 are too new to show up on available Google Earth Satellite imagery. Below I post images of the distance between power stations 1 and 6 as well as close-ups of both facilities.

Power Station No. 1 was completed in 2007 and most recently received media attention in South Korea in September 2009 when the DPRK released a massive amount of water from its dam (Hwanggang Dam), causing floods in South Korea that killed six people. An estimated 40,000,000 short tons (36,000,000 t) of water was dumped during the flood, causing the water level at the border of Gyeonggi-do to leap from 7.5 feet (2.3 m) to 15.1 feet (4.6 m).

Power Station No. 2 (38.324008°, 126.673366°) has been completed, but it is too new to appear on Google Earth satellite imagery.  I have drawn it on Google Earth below:

Construction of Power Station No. 2 resulted in the dislocation of approximately 27 houses, but I have not been able to determine if any other villages were relocated due to construction of the other facilities.

Paektusan Songun Youth Power Stations
The North Korean media has also done a lot of advertising for the Paektusan Songun Youth Power Stations (백두산선군청년발전소) in Paekam County, Ryanggang Province (41.716931°, 128.786163°).

These dams have resulted in the dislocation of  two small communities as well as the severing of the old railway lines that connected Unhung, Kilju and Paekam with Musan.  Maybe the railway lines have been moved to accommodate the new dams, but it is also unclear if these line were in use to begin with.

Pukchang Ryongsan Power Station
Up until recently I believed the Pukchang Ryongsan Power Station (북창룡산발전소, 39.596238°, 126.266478°) was a large-scale river-straightening project, but according to recent KCTV footage (which I posted to Youtube here) it is in fact a hydro power station.  Work on this project began sometime around the spring 2002 (as best I can tell).

Huichon Youth Power Stations
The Huichon Youth Power Stations No. 1 & 2 have received the most attention in the North Korean media.  I recently located them and will post something soon.

Since the DPRK will likely be subjecting several of these (or other) power plants to international scrutiny, I look forward to seeing that data published.  KCNA is short on details and the disclosed information would facilitate more accurate assessments of the DPRK’s domestic hydro-power generating capacities.

A reader writes in with the following comments:

I would like to share some comments on the potential CDM projects in north Korea as i have been working on this field for many years now.

Concerning existing hydropower plants:
To be eligible to a CDM project, one of the first criteria is the additionality of the project. You have to prove (the rules are very stricts) that the project would not have been launched without the consideration of the revenues from the reselling of the CERs.
So the Dams that have already been buit are not eligible.

Concerning hydropower plants that are being implemented:
The first step of a CDM project is to notify to the UNFCCC secretariat and to Designated National Authority (in this case the Secretariat of the National Coordinating Committee of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for Environment) that you are seeking to establish your project as a CDM project.
Up to now, no such notification has been received by UNFCCC so it would be quiet difficult for projects being implemented to ask for the CDM status (i mean nearly impossible).

Some facts concerning future hydropower projects:
From the day you send the notification that you are seeking the CDM status to the day you are actually given the status, it takes in average 2 to 3 years (they would have to build the plants during this period)
Then it can be at least another year before you receive the CERs.
The price of 12 euro for a CER is for secondary market. The price for primary CER (directly sold by the producer) would be much less than 8 euro.
The figure of 20 000 CERs/year is completely unpredictable for the moment, here is a simplification of the calculation:
One CER is equal to one tonne of CO2 equivalent that would be avoided by producing clean electricity. For example when you produce 1 MW electricity from coal, the process releases X tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere but when you produce 1 MW from a hydropower plant, you do not release CO2.
In order to calculate what the CDM project would be able to claim, we would have to know the CO2 emission factor of the North Korean grid and then multiply it by the amount of MWh produced by the CDM project.
If most of the electricity produced these days in North Korea already comes from hydropower plants, then the national emission factor will be low and the CDM project will not avoid a lot of CO2 emission (and so not earn a lot of €)
Without the capacity of the future project and the national emission factor, it is impossible to estimate the amount of CERs the project could generate.

The CDM status seems quiet unrealistic to obtain for North Korean projects but other international agreements are discussed these days and their outcome may be more adapted.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-1-31): According to Radio Free Asia:

Nuclear-armed but cash-starved North Korea has expressed interest in joining the world carbon market in an apparent bid to earn precious hard currency and avoid international sanctions, an expert told RFA.

But the secretive Kim Jong Il regime has to disclose critical information, such as energy consumption data as well as methods by which it derives energy, to be eligible for funding under the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), said the North Korea expert, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The CDM is aimed at encouraging companies or organizations in the developed world to invest in carbon dioxide emissions-saving projects in developing countries.

In return for funding and technology transfer, investors receive carbon credits, which can then either be traded on carbon markets or used to reduce their own emissions tally if they are subject to a domestic cap.

The Kyoto Protocol set emission caps for 38 countries through 2012, establishing the CDM as a worldwide carbon market. It is a cornerstone of the group’s efforts to tackle global warming.

The North Korea expert told RFA on Jan. 13 that Pyongyang intended to apply for funding via the CDM and that the regime might list its proposed hydro-electricity power projects under the U.N. mechanism.

UN refrains from comment

When contacted on the North Korea move, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the secretariat charged with implementing the global environmental treaty to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations, said it would refrain from commenting on individual country projects.

The North Korea expert estimated that one ton of carbon dioxide would trade for about U.S. $26 dollars and if a hydro-electric power project was registered under the CDM, depending on the carbon credit bid price, about U.S. $1 million dollars could be earned annually.

A hydro project registered under the CDM would need to be evaluated by U.N. inspectors for it to qualify for carbon credits. Usually, it would be evaluated continuously for about 14 years.

Details, including the amount of energy linked to the hydro project and potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, would have to be submitted.

North Korea has been mostly reluctant to share information about its energy generation activities.

According to the expert, North Korea has recently displayed “great interest” in the possibility of operating hydro-electric power stations to alleviate its domestic energy shortages and to acquire “carbon credits” that it could, in turn, sell on the international carbon market.

Hard currency

As North Korea’s economic crisis worsens, Pyongyang is seeking ways to earn hard currency following a failed currency reform and due to sanctions imposed by the international community over its nuclear and missile developments and provocations targeting South Korea.

The interest in the CDM is likely to be part of this search.

The North Korea expert also said that earning hard currency through “carbon credits” would not be subject to sanctions imposed on Pyongyang under UN Security Council resolutions, and that any North Korea’s application for participation under the CDM “may stand a chance.”

“For North Korea, this could be an opportunity to earn hard currency without engaging in illegal armament sales, while operating an electric power station in transparent fashion, and accepting strict monitoring by the UN, and abiding by applicable international standards.”

The United States has been pressing China to use its influence to persuade North Korea regime to end recent provocations and return to disarmament talks involving the three countries and South Korea, Russia and Japan.

The six-party nuclear talks were last held in 2008. The impoverished North has been seeking a restart to the nuclear negotiations, which propose to reward its gradual nuclear disarmament with phased infusions of economic aid.

In a bid to renew dialogue and ease chances of conflict, South Korea recently proposed holding a preliminary meeting with North Korea on Feb. 11 to prepare for high-level defense talks. On Friday, the North suggested parliamentary talks between the two sides.

Read the full story here:
North Korea Eyes Carbon Market
Radio Free Asia
1/29/2011

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DPRK luxury imports 2011

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Pictured above in Wonsan: Possibly a new yacht (see more here)

According to the Choson Ilbo:

The North Korean regime has spent US$1.04 billion since 2008 importing luxury goods in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions.

According to data Grand National Party lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun obtained from the Foreign Ministry and other government agencies, the regime imported luxury goods worth $272.14 million in 2008, $322.53 million in 2009, and $446.17 million in 2010.

TVs, digital cameras, and video recorders made up the largest proportion, jumping from $115.47 million in 2008 to $215.95 million in 2010.

Luxury cars and parts came second and movie equipment such as film cameras and projectors third.

UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874 ban exports of luxury goods and weapons of mass destruction to the North.

The amount the regime spent buying luxury goods was about 10 times the total humanitarian aid of $107.29 million it received from South Korea and the international community over the same period.

Read the full story here.

Additional information:
1. Back in July, there were several estimates of DPRK luxury goods imports based on Chinese data.

2. The DPRK maintains appx 200-300 foreign trade companies.

3. Office 38 is reportedly responsible for engaging in trade deals.

4. On the life of an overseas North Korean trade agent.

5. Here is an American Hummer parked at the Yangakdo Hotel.

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DPRK’s import of luxury goods and estimated trade data

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

UPDATE 2 (2011-7-20): The Daily NK offers some more statistics:

It has been confirmed the North Korean authorities were concentrating on importing luxury items for privileged people, while international humanitarian organizations were worrying about North Korea’s chronic food shortage and the damage to the vulnerable classes.

According to statistics from the South Korean government and Chinese customs, from January to May this year, the cost of food import is only about 4% out of the total amount of imports, which translates to about 46 million dollars out of 1.148 billion dollars.

The total amount of trade with China was doubled as compared with the corresponding period from last year: exports were increased by 217% and imports by 58%. The export amount is 812 million dollars while the import is 1.148 billion dollars.

In comparison, around 10 million dollars were used to purchase high quality liquor, cigarettes and others for privileged classes. The amount of cigarette imports, such as Marlboro, Mild Seven and others, is 7.5 million dollars. 2.4 million dollars were used to buy Cognac or whisky like Chivas Regal, Hennessy X.O. and other kinds of alcohol.

The amount of alcohol imported was increased by 94 % compared to the same period of last year.

It was reported that other items, such as international designer brands clothes, watches, and other items and electronic goods from SONY and Samsung were also imported.

It also showed that North Korean authorities sold wheat it had received from the international community to other countries. 200,000 tons of phosphate rock, which is materials for fertilizer, provided by Middle Eastern countries for free in 2010, were sold to some countries in Europe.

In addition, since South Korean markets have been blocked due to May 24 Measures, North Korea tried to download agricultural products, which are disguised as Chinese products, onto South Korean vessels in international waters by secretly working with Chinese traders. The South Korean government reported that there were four cases last year and 11 cases so far this year.

So apparently everyone has seen the data source but me.

UPDATE 1 (2011-7-22): The Los Angeles Times picked up on the report and offered a few more details:

North Korea’s importing of luxury goods from China nearly doubled in the first five months of this year, compared with the same time period for 2010, according to a report by Beijing customs officials obtained by the South Korean Unification Ministry.

The communist regime spent $46 million on imported corn, rice and other food staples, but it also spent $10 million on luxury items from January through May of this year. Imported through China, the items reportedly include Marlboro cigarettes, Hennessy cognac, whiskey and Japanese beer, South Korean officials said this week, quoting the Chinese customs report.

The imports included about $500,000 worth of high-grade beef, apparently for luxury meals, which North Korean leader Kim Jong Il uses to maintain the support of the power elite, Seoul officials said.

This year, the regime again requested food aid, citing reduced crop yields. Though the European Union plans to send $14.5 million in food aid, the United States and South Korea have been reticent to supply such aid.

Some scholars believe that North Korea has exaggerated its need for food, alleging that the aid is turned over to the military or stored for future use, such as a planned celebration next year to mark the anniversary of the regime.

“I do not believe these claims about mass starvation,” said Andrei N. Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul and the author of several books on North Korean history and politics.

He called the move by Pyongyang “a deliberate campaign to get free food, which will then be distributed to the privileged groups as government gifts. This will allow them to increase their legitimacy and win some popular support at the expense of the Western and South Korean taxpayers.”

I still have not seen the original Chinese source.  If anyone has it, please send it my way.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-7-20): Yonhap cites an unnamed South Korean government official (anyone want to take credit for these statistics?) who claims that the DPRK is skirting UN sanctions and obtaining luxury goods.  According to the article:

Despite years of food shortages, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has engaged in the gift politics of showering his top aides and other elites with luxury goods to win their loyalty.

Some ruling elites also enjoyed McDonald’s hamburgers delivered from China via Air Koryo, North Korea’s flagship airline, the official said, without elaborating.

The North also spent about US$7.5 million in buying cigarettes such as Marlboro and Mild Seven in the first five months, a rise of 117 percent compared to the same period last year, according to figures by South Korea and China. It also showed that the North imported $2.4 million worth of Hennessy Cognac, whiskey and Japanese beer, up 94 percent compared to the same period last year.

The trade volume between North Korea and China stood at US$1.96 billion in the first five months, twice as much as in the same period last year, according to Lee.

Since the article does not name a source or provide any way to track down the numbers, take them with a grain of salt.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea imports luxury goods for ruling elites despite food shortages
Yonhap
2011-7-20

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M/V Light returns to DPRK

Monday, June 13th, 2011

According to the New York Times:

The United States Navy intercepted a North Korean ship it suspected of carrying missile technology to Myanmar two weeks ago and, after a standoff at sea and several days of diplomatic pressure from Washington and Asia nations, forced the vessel to return home, according to several senior American officials.

Washington made no announcement about the operation, which paralleled a similar, far more public confrontation with North Korea two years ago. But in response to questions about what appears to be a growing trade in missiles and missile parts between North Korea and Myanmar — two of the world’s most isolated governments — American officials have described the episode as an example of how they can use a combination of naval power and diplomatic pressure to enforce United Nations sanctions imposed after the North’s last nuclear test, in 2009.

It was a rare victory: a similar shipment of suspected missile parts made it to Myanmar last year before American officials could act. Despite the Obama administration’s efforts to squeeze North Korea with both economic and trade sanctions, there are continuing reports of sophisticated missile technology exchanges, some of it by air, between North Korea and Iran, among other nations.

North Korea, aware that shipments leaving the country are under increased scrutiny, has found a profitable trading partner in the authoritarian government in Myanmar.

The extent of that trade is unclear to American intelligence agencies. Two years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton publicly expressed suspicions that Myanmar was attempting to purchase nuclear weapons technology, but it recently said it was too poor to use such technology. And the evidence has been scant at best. (In 2009, India inspected a North Korean ship that was believed to be carrying equipment for a nuclear reactor to Myanmar, but quickly discovered that its contents were legal.)

The most recent episode began after American officials tracked a North Korean cargo ship, the M/V Light, that was believed to have been involved in previous illegal shipments. Suspecting that it was carrying missile components, they dispatched a Navy vessel, the destroyer McCampbell, to track it.

“This case had an interesting wrinkle: the ship was North Korean, but it was flagged in Belize,” one American official said, meaning it was registered in that Central American nation, perhaps to throw off investigators.

But Belize is a member of the Proliferation Security Initiative, an effort begun by President George W. Bush’s administration to sign up countries around the world to interdict suspected unconventional weapons. It is an effort that, like the military and C.I.A. drone programs, Mr. Obama has adopted, and one of the rare areas where he has praised his predecessor.

According to American officials, the authorities in Belize gave permission to the United States to inspect the ship.

On May 26, somewhere south of Shanghai, the McCampbell caught up with the cargo ship and hailed it, asking to board the vessel under the authority given by Belize. Four times, the North Koreans refused.

As in the 2009 case, which involved the North Korean vessel the Kong Nam 1, the White House was unwilling to forcibly board the ship in international waters, fearing a possible firefight and, in the words of one official, a spark “that could ignite the Korean peninsula.” Moreover, the Americans did not have definitive proof of what was in the containers — and a mistake would have been embarrassing.

“There is always a chance that the North is setting us up for a raid that they know will find nothing,” one official said. “So we want to make sure we don’t fall into a trap.”

By happenstance, a group of senior officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — including a representative from Myanmar — was in Washington while the slow-speed chase was occurring 8,000 miles away. On May 27, when the group visited the Old Executive Office Building opposite the White House, Gary Samore, the president’s top nuclear adviser, addressed the officials, urging Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia to fully join the nonproliferation effort.

He then surprised the Asian officials by telling them he had a “sensitive subject” to raise, and described the American suspicions, providing the group with a picture of the ship on its way to Myanmar. He reminded them that under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874, which was passed in response to the North Korean nuclear test in 2009, its vessels are to be inspected if “reasonable grounds” exist to suspect that weapons are being exported.

“The Burmese official in the room protested that we were making accusations,” said one American official familiar with the exchange. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has denied stockpiling missiles or buying parts from North Korea. It repeated those denials during recent visits to the country by a midlevel State Department official and by Senator John McCain.

American officials dismiss those denials, pointing to years of evidence of missile-related purchases during both the Bush and Obama administrations. But they concede they are mystified about Myanmar’s motives. The missiles that they believed were aboard the M/V Light have a range of about 350 miles, meaning they could hit parts of India, China, Thailand or Laos — all unlikely targets.

The message apparently got across. A few days later, long before approaching Myanmar, the cargo ship stopped dead in the water. Then it turned back to its home port, tracked by American surveillance planes and satellites, and suffering engine trouble along the way.

And according to the Wall Street Journal:

Under pressure from the U.S. and other countries, a North Korean vessel called the M/V Light turned around in the South China Sea two weeks ago and returned to the North last week, U.S. and South Korean officials said Monday.

Among the countries that agreed to apply pressure was Myanmar, a previous destination for North Korean weapons, a senior U.S. official said. Some reports said the North Korean ship was bound for Myanmar, but the U.S. official, Gary Samore, special assistant to President Barack Obama on weapons of mass destruction, said its final destination wasn’t clear.

“It was headed for the Straits of Malacca, which would have required it to pass between Malaysia and Singapore,” Mr. Samore said. “Since we had alerted the Singaporean and Malaysian authorities, there might have been concern [in Pyongyang] whether it could pass through the straits without action by either of those countries.”

The ship turned around, without the U.S. resorting to force, before reaching the straits.

North Korea’s state media haven’t reported on the latest journey of the M/V Light, keeping with a silence it maintained over previous interceptions of its weapons-ferrying ships and planes.

The incident is unlikely to change the fundamental standoff between North Korea and other nations over its nuclear-weapons program. The U.S., China and other countries have tried to lure North Korea back to the so-called six-party talks, in which Pyongyang has been encouraged to give up its nuclear pursuit in exchange for economic incentives and security guarantees.

Mr. Samore said the multilateral cooperation is a signal to North Korea that other nations remain committed to enforcing the trade limitations set forth by the U.N. Security Council several weeks after Pyongyang tested a nuclear weapon in 2009.

U.S. officials in late May began tracking the M/V Light, and a U.S. Navy destroyer intercepted it on May 26 and followed it down the Chinese coast for several days. Meanwhile, American diplomats won agreement from several southeast Asian nations to stop the ship if it attempted to make port.

U.S. officials also discussed the M/V Light with North Korean officials several times via the North’s U.N. delegation, a so-called back channel the two countries use because they don’t maintain official diplomatic relations.

“The North Koreans claimed the ship was going to Bangladesh with a cargo of industrial chemicals,” Mr. Samore said. “We have no way to verify whether any of that was true. And we had good reason to be suspicious with this ship, which in the past has been involved in the export of weapons to [Myanmar] and other locations in the Middle East.”

Read the full stories here:
U.S. Said to Turn Back North Korea Missile Shipment
New York Times
David Sanger
2011-6-12

North Korea Keeps Silent on Ship’s Turnaround
Wall Street Journal
Evan Ramstad
2011-6-14

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UNSC expands panel of experts mandate

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Here is the press release from the UNSC:

Security Council
6553rd Meeting (AM)

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS UNTIL 12 JUNE 2012 MANDATE OF PANEL OF EXPERTS

HELPING MONITOR SANCTIONS ON DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA

The Security Council this morning extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts helping monitor sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for an additional year, until 12 June 2012.

Acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1985 (2011) maintaining the current mandate of the group that it established in June 2009. At that time, the Council also condemned a nuclear weapons test conducted by the East Asian country and toughened the sanctions regime on it, calling for stricter inspections of cargo suspected of containing banned items related to the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile activities, and tightening the arms embargo and financial restrictions. (See Press Release SC/9634)

Through today’s text, noting the importance of credible, fact-based, independent assessments, analysis and recommendations from the Panel, the Council also presented the group’s reporting and consultation requirements. It urged all States to cooperate with the Panel and the sanctions regime.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:14 a.m.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 1985 (2011) reads as follows:

“The Security Council,

“Recalling its previous relevant resolutions, including resolution 825 (1993), resolution 1540 (2004), resolution 1695 (2006), resolution 1718 (2006), resolution 1874 (2009), resolution 1887 (2009) and resolution 1928 (2010), as well as the statements of its President of 6 October 2006 (S/PRST/2006/41) and 13 April 2009 (S/PRST/2009/7),

“Recalling the creation, pursuant to paragraph 26 of resolution 1874 (2009), of a Panel of Experts, under the direction of the Committee, to carry out the tasks provided for by that paragraph,

“Recalling the 12 November 2010 interim report by the Panel of Experts appointed by the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 26 of resolution 1874 (2009) and the 12 May 2011 final report by the Panel,

“Recalling the methodological standards for reports of sanctions monitoring mechanisms contained in the Report of the Informal Working Group of the Security Council on General Issues of Sanctions (S/2006/997),

“Noting, in that regard, the importance of credible, fact-based, independent assessments, analysis and recommendations, in accordance with the Panel of Experts’ mandate,

“Determining that proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery, continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security,

“Acting under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

“1. Decides to extend until 12 June 2012 the mandate of the Panel of Experts, as specified in paragraph 26 of resolution 1874 (2009), and requests the Secretary-General to take the necessary administrative measures to this effect;

“2. Requests the Panel of Experts to provide to the Committee no later than 12 November 2011 a midterm report of its work, and further requests that, after a discussion with the Committee, the Panel of Experts submit to the Council its midterm report by 12 December 2011, and requests also a final report to the Committee no later than 30 days prior to the termination of its mandate with its findings and recommendations, and further requests that, after a discussion with the Committee, the Panel of Experts submit to the Council its final report upon termination of the Panel’s mandate;

“3. Requests the Panel of Experts to provide to the Committee a planned programme of work no later than 30 days after the Panel’s appointment, encourages the Committee to engage in regular discussions about this programme of work, and further requests the Panel of Experts to provide to the Committee any updates to this programme of work;

“4. Urges all States, relevant United Nations bodies, and other interested parties to cooperate fully with the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) and with the Panel of Experts, in particular by supplying any information at their disposal on the implementation of the measures imposed by resolution 1718 (2006) and resolution 1874 (2009);

“5. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”

Previous reports by the Panel of Experts can be found here and here.

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DPRK selling defective Chinese arms

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

According to Reuters:

North Korea was the supplier of a cache of defective weapons sold to Burundi’s army by a Ukrainian firm, said Western diplomats familiar with the case that has riled Burundi’s anti-corruption body.

The weapons deal with Burundi appeared to be a violation of the international ban on North Korean weapons exports which the U.N. Security Council imposed on Pyongyang in June 2009 after its second nuclear test, the diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The case involved the supply of some 60 Chinese-made .50-calibre machine guns to Burundi by a Ukrainian firm called Cranford Trading, the diplomats said. The weapons, which were defective, were sold to the firm by North Korea, they added.

Diplomats say Pyongyang continues to try to skirt the arms embargo. Last year South Africa informed the Security Council’s sanctions committee about a seizure of North Korean arms bound for Central Africa.

The expanded sanctions were aimed at cutting off North Korea’s arms sales, a vital export that was estimated to earn the destitute state more than $1 billion a year.

Some facts about the Burundi weapons deal became known late last year when the country’s anti-corruption watchdog went public about irregularities it found. It said that the arms had been defective and that Burundi had been overcharged.

A report on a state audit of the deal, seen by Reuters, concluded that Cranford Trading provided Burundi’s army defective military material with the complicity of former Defense Minister Germain Niyoyanka, current army chief Godefroid Niyombare and his deputy Diomede Ndegeya.

The auditors’ report said that the bidding offer was $3.075 million, while the amount in the contract was for $3.388 million. A further $1.186 million was paid in transport fees, even though such fees were not agreed in the contract.

The auditors concluded that the defense ministry had spent a great deal of money on defective material and recommended the prosecution of all people involved on suspicion of graft.

North Korea was not mentioned in the auditors’ report.

Several officials at Burundi’s U.N. mission in New York declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

NO CERTIFICATE OF ORIGIN

“The weapons were transferred by China to North Korea, which then sold them to Cranford,” a diplomat said, adding that the official documentation for the deal had been incomplete.

“There was no certificate of origin of the weapons, which is necessary to comply with international conventions,” the diplomat added. Another diplomat confirmed the remarks.

The contract between Burundi’s defense ministry and Cranford Trading covered the period between October 2008 through 2010. It was not clear how much North Korea would have received when it sold the defective arms to Cranford Trading.

It was not possible to track down Cranford Trading in Ukraine, since the company was not readily accessible in any public lists. Ukraine’s U.N. mission did not respond to an e-mailed query about Cranford and the arms transaction.

It was not clear when China transferred the weapons to North Korea, or who in China was responsible, or whether the Chinese government had knowledge of the deal.

The U.N. arms embargo does not ban the sale of small arms to Pyongyang, though it does require exporters to notify the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee in advance about any small-arms sales to Pyongyang.

If the transfer took place after the latest round of U.N. sanctions were approved in June 2009, the exporter would have been required to notify the sanctions committee.

A spokesman for China’s U.N. mission was not available for comment.

The diplomats said the sanctions committee has not been notified about the Burundi case.

Read the full story here:
Defective Burundi weapons came from N.Korea
Reuters
Louis Charbonneau
2/1/2011

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