North Korea continues to develop its nuclear programme and is violating international sanctions by clandestinely transferring weapons and fuel, a confidential United Nations report said.
By turning off tracking systems on ships, the North Asian nation was able to carry out illicit ship-to-ship petroleum transfers, an activity that has “increased in scope, scale and sophistication”, media quoted the leaked report as saying on Friday.
It also said “prohibited military cooperation with the Syrian Arab Republic has continued unabated”.
“[North Korea] has not stopped its nuclear and missile programmes and continued to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, as well as through transfers of coal at sea during 2018,” it said.
The isolated country attempted to sell weapons to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to the report.
UN experts were shown a July 13, 2016 letter from a Houthi leader inviting the North Koreans to meet in the Syrian capital, Damascus, “to discuss the issue of the transfer of technology and other matters of mutual interest”.
North Korea also “attempted to supply small arms and light weapons and other military equipment via foreign intermediaries” to Libya and Sudan, said the report.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday the process of ending North Korea’s nuclear programme would take time, but he was optimistic it would be done.
It was important to maintain diplomatic and economic pressure on the North, he said, and the United States takes seriously any detraction from enforcing UN sanctions.
“I’m optimistic that we will get this done in the timeline and the world will celebrate what the UN Security Council has demanded,” Pompeo said on the sidelines of a security conference in Singapore..
“The work has begun. The process of achieving denuclearisation of the [Korean] peninsula is one that I think we have all known would take some time.”
North Korea has been under sanctions since 2006, when the country carried out its first nuclear test.
Following that announcement, more sanctions were imposed by the UN in December.
Pompeo told reporters the US has new, credible reports that Russia is violating UN sanctions by allowing joint ventures with North Korean companies and issuing new permits for North Korean guest workers.
“We expect the Russians and all countries to abide to the UN Security Council resolutions and enforce sanctions on North Korea,” he said. “Any violation that detracts from the world’s goal of finally, fully denuclearising North Korea would be something that America would take very seriously.”
Russia and China recently suggested the UN Security Council discuss easing sanctions after US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met for the first time in June, and Kim pledged to work towards denuclearisation.
During their meeting in Singapore, the two leaders signed an agreement pledging to support a peaceful resolution to seven decades of hostilities.
Under the agreement, the US committed to provide security guarantees while North Korea “commits to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”.
Following their meeting, North Korea destroyed several tunnels used as underground nuclear testing facilities.
Despite the agreement, US intelligence agencies reported North Korea continues working on new ICBM missiles.
North Korea’s foreign minister on Saturday reaffirmed his country’s resolve to implement the deal but said he is increasingly concerned by US attitudes.
“The DPRK stands firm in its determination and commitment for implementing the DPRK-US joint statement in a responsible and good-faith manner,” said Ri Yong-ho, referring to his country by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“What is alarming, however, is the insistent moves manifested within the US to go back to the old, far from its leader’s intention.”
A foreign ministry statement quoted Ri as saying “impatience is not helpful at all for building confidence”.
“Especially advancing unilateral demands will further deepen mistrust instead of reviving trust,” said Ri.
“As long as the US does not show in practice its strong will to remove our concerns, there will be no case whereby we will move forward first unilaterally.”
Meanwhile, the US State Department said Trump’s reply to Kim’s latest letter was hand-delivered to the North’s top diplomat by Pompeo.
Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert would not address the content of Trump’s letter to Kim. The White House said earlier in the week that Kim had sent a new correspondence to Trump, but did not specify what was communicated.