Last week a North Korean diplomat was caught smuggling gold estimated to be worth £1m ($1.4 M) from Singapore to Bangladesh. The route of travel and amount of gold seized suggests that North Korea was probably in the process of paying for something, but for what remains unclear.
A recent UN security council report suggests that this a common tactic employed by the country to evade sanctions. The report, chaired by a UN panel of experts on North Korea, focuses on the procurement networks established by Pyongyang, which have allowed it to continue trading illegally with international partners.
Of central importance are North Korean diplomats, officials and trade representatives who are key nodes arranging deals, organizing payments and helping contractors to bypass customs agencies, the report says.
Sanctions against North Korea is not working as well as some might have hoped, and Obama’s mantra of “strategic patience” has come under criticism from some North Korea observers. There are increasing calls for a change of tack. John Delury from 38 North, a group of North Korean analysts, argues that the US president should be the one to lead a proactive, strategic and effective dialogue with North Korea.