People visit statues of North Korean late leaders, Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il, to lay bouquets of flowers in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Lunar New Year's Day, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. The lunar Year of the Pig is celebrated around Asia. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)

UN experts: North Korea nukes intact, dispersing missiles

February 05, 2019 - 3:56 pm

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea's nuclear and missile programs "remain intact" and its leaders are dispersing missile assembly and testing facilities to prevent "decapitation" strikes, U.N. experts said in a new report.

The experts' report to the Security Council, seen Tuesday by The Associated Press, says the country continues to defy U.N. sanctions, including through "a massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal."

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea — the country's official name — also continues to violate an arms embargo, a ban on luxury goods and financial sanctions, the experts said.

The report was sent to council members as U.S. President Donald Trump is preparing for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. At their June summit in Singapore, Trump promised "security guarantees" to Pyongyang and Kim recommitted to the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

But there were no signs in the experts' report that Kim has taken any steps toward eliminating his nuclear arsenal or intercontinental ballistic missiles, which he boasted could reach the U.S. mainland.

"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs remain intact," the experts said.

"The panel found that the DPRK is using civilian facilities, including airports, for ballistic missile assembly and testing with the goal of effectively preventing 'decapitation' strikes," they said. It also "found evidence of a consistent trend on the part of the DPRK to disperse the assembly, storage and testing locations."

The panel said it is continuing to investigate companies, entities and individuals in Asia who are on the U.N. sanctions blacklist and "clandestinely procured centrifuges for the DPRK's nuclear program" — and who attempted to sell "a wide range of military equipment to armed groups and governments in the Middle East and Africa."

The experts also painted a picture of continuing wide-ranging efforts by the DPRK to evade U.N. sanctions.

The massive increase in ship-to-ship transfers "render the latest United Nations sanctions ineffective by flouting the caps on the DPRK's import of petroleum products and crude oil as well as the coal ban imposed in 2017 by the Security Council in response to the DPRK's unprecedented nuclear and ballistic missile testing," the experts said.

They quoted one unnamed country as saying the DPRK obtained more than the cap of 500,000 barrels of refined petroleum products in 2019, but said another unnamed country questioned the figure.

And the experts said: "Global banks and insurance companies continue to unwittingly facilitate payments and provide coverage for vessels involved in ever-larger, multimillion-dollar, illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, as well as an increasing number of ship-to-ship coal transfers and attempted trans-shipments."

As for the arms embargo, they said the DPRK attempted to supply small arms, light weapons and other military equipment via foreign intermediaries to Houthi Shiite rebels in Yemen as well as Libya and Sudan.

The experts said they also investigated DPRK involvement in gold mining in Congo, construction of a military camp in Sierra Leone and the same of fishing rights in waters surrounding the country, and other activities around the world banned under U.N. sanctions.

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