UN probing North Korean arms embargo violations in Africa


The United Nations is investigating reports that North Korea violated arms embargoes and supplied weapons to a number of African countries, including air defence systems to Mozambique and Tanzania.

In a report released last week, the United Nations said it continues to investigate a number of violations of the arms embargo by North Korea covering the trade in conventional arms and ballistic missile-related items, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, notably Syria.

The Panel of Experts in a midterm report on North Korea said that it continued its investigation into the training of the Angolan presidential guard and other units by personnel from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as well as the country’s diplomats accredited in Angola working on behalf of Green Pine Corporation, including Mr Kim Hyok Chan and Mr Jon Chol Young. Kim served as the Green Pine Corporation representative responsible for the refurbishment by North Korea of Angolan naval vessels in violation of UN resolutions.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, North Korea is accused of training the Presidential Guard, as well as providing 9 mm firearms to the Presidential Guard and special units of the police, some of which were deployed to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic.

In Eritrea, the UN is looking into the interdiction of a shipment of arms and related materiel from Glocom. “Eritrea continues to fail to provide substantive information to the Panel’s enquiries on this case, which are part of a series on arms cooperation between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and various States,” the report said.

Mozambique allegedly received man-portable air defence systems, surface-to-air missiles and radar equipment from North Korea via the Haegeumgang Trading Corporation and the Mozambique Government-controlled company “Monte Binga”. The UN report said Haegeumgang has been reported by two Member States as active in Mozambique and the neighbouring United Republic of Tanzania. Mozambique’s government on 13 September said it would work with the UN panel on the issues.

In Namibia, North Korea apparently helped construct the new headquarters for the National Central Intelligence Service as well a munitions factory, through the Mansudae Overseas Project Group and Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID).

Uganda is highlighted as another user of North Korean expertise, and according to the UN received training for the Ugandan military and police forces, in particular the Ugandan air force. The UN Panel is also investigating the role of the office of the military attaché in North Korea’s embassy in Kampala.

Arguably some of the most serious allegations regard Tanzania, which is being investigated after a UN member state claimed the Haegeumgang Trading Corporation is repairing and upgrading the military’s S-125 Pechora (SA-3) surface-to-air missile systems. Haegeumgang is also reportedly repairing and upgrading its P-12 air defence radar. “The total value of the prohibited military-related contracts between the United Republic of Tanzania and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was reported as €10.49 million,” the Panel said, adding that Tanzania has yet to respond to the Panel’s enquiries.

In August 2013 it was claimed that North Korean personnel were refurbishing Tanzanian F-7 fighter jets and other aircraft.

Another country fingered by the UN Panel of Experts is Syria, which apparently used North Korean assistance in chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms activities. This includes maintenance and repair of Syrian surface-to-air missile systems.

Other findings by the UN report are that North Korea “continues to flout the arms embargo and robust financial and sectoral sanctions, showing that as the sanctions regime expands, so does the scope of evasion.”

The reclusive Asian country “continues to violate the financial sanctions by stationing agents abroad to execute financial transactions on behalf of national entities. Financial institutions in numerous Member States wittingly and unwittingly have provided correspondent banking services to front companies and individuals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea engaged in prohibited activities. Moreover, foreign companies maintain links with financial institutions of the country established as subsidiaries or joint ventures in violation of the resolutions. Involvement of diplomatic personnel of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in commercial activities and the leasing of embassy property generate substantial revenue and are aided by multiple deceptive financial practices.”

In order to generate revenue, North Korea “continued to violate sectoral sanctions through the export of almost all of the commodities prohibited in the resolutions, generating at least $270 million in revenue during the reporting period [2 February to 5 August 2017].” Coal has been shipped to Malaysia and Vietnam, amongst others.