North Korean merchant shipping fleets mask North Korean weapons trade

North Korea has developed sophisticated ways to circumvent United Nations sanctions, including the suspected use of its embassies to facilitate an illegal trade in weapons, according to an United Nations report.

North Korea has also gone to great lengths to mask the origin of its merchant shipping fleet by reflagging and renaming ships, the report said, particularly after the introduction of tightened U.N. sanctions in early 2013 that followed the country’s third nuclear test. Most of the registered owners of the ships are small companies that rarely own more than five vessels, meaning Pyongyang is able to keep its fleet running if a ship or shipping company is seized or has its assets frozen.

The report said North Korea was also making use of more complicated financial countermeasures and techniques “pioneered by drug-trafficking organizations” that made tracking the isolated state’s purchase of prohibited goods more difficult.

Under the myriad U.N. sanctions, North Korea is banned from shipping and receiving cargo related to its nuclear and missile programs. The importation of some luxury goods is also banned, along with the illicit transfer of bulk cash.

[Reuters]

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