The US has called upon African countries which still maintain ties with the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea (DPRK) to reassess those relationships and to enforce United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions, which mandate sanctions, against the East Asian country. This was emphasised by senior US State Department officials in a recent telephone briefing and question-and-answer session with journalists from across Africa.
The UNSC has passed ten resolutions imposing sanctions on North Korea since 2006, four of them during the past 12 months alone. These actions are in response to the DPRK’s continuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles development and test programmes.
“These resolutions are focused on cutting off the revenue that the North Korean regime needs to continue developing these unlawful programmes and send a strong message condemning North Korea’s behaviour,” explained US Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Economic Bureau Sandra Oudkirk. “By the end of last year, compulsory UN restrictions banned virtually all North Korean exports …. Member states are also required to repatriate nearly all North Koreans currently working abroad within two years and are prohibited from renewing existing work permits and issuing new ones to DPRK nationals. Furthermore, these UN measures impose additional restrictions on North Korea’s ability to generate revenue and access the international financial systems, such as an ‘end all joint ventures with North Korea’ [requirement], which not only deprives the regime of any revenue generated from these arrangements, but also ends all future foreign investment and transfers of technology.”
The UNSC has also imposed severe restrictions on exports to the DPRK, especially oil. North Korea is now allowed to import only 500 000 barrels of refined fuel and four million barrels of crude oil, a year. Oil suppliers to North Korea must now submit quarterly reports to the relevant UN committee.
“When reassessing their relations with the DPRK, countries should consider that North Korea abuses its diplomatic and trade relationships with partners to gain access to the international commercial and financial systems that sustain its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programmes,” pointed out US Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Robert Scott. “In doing so, it routinely misuses diplomatic privilege and undermines the international reputation of governments hosting its embassies and trade missions. The DPRK exploits its access to the international financial system – access that countries provide in good faith – to conceal its illicit financial activities, often by using unwitting foreign nations and entities. North Korea engages in these practices with full recognition that these illicit transactions expose their international partners to financial penalties.”
He observed that the UN’s North Korea Panel of Experts has established, in a series of annual reports, “arms-related activities” between some African countries and North Korea, despite such activities being banned by the UNSC in its resolutions. “The United States takes these reports very seriously.”
“President [Donald] Trump made very clear very early in his term in office that the threat posed by North Korea is the number one security threat that the United States faces. … [He] has made clear that we are going to exert maximum [diplomatic, economic and military] pressure on North Korea. That pressure is designed not to overthrow the North Korean government, but rather to compel North Korea to return to negotiations aimed at [the] denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” highlighted US Deputy Special Representative for North Korea Policy Mark Lambert. “[W]e look at those [UNSC] resolutions as a starting point. In addition, we have a number of very strong unilateral sanctions that allow us to punish financially any person or any company, no matter where that individual or company is located, that is involved in serious trade with North Korea.”
He stated that the US was asking countries, across the world, to expel all North Korean diplomats from their countries, because the North Koreans abused their diplomatic status to make money. “In addition, we’re asking countries to be doubly careful about their information technology sectors. North Korean workers are working on cybercrime around the world. … Any country that has North Koreans in it puts its companies and its people at risk. In Africa, we want to partner with you.” The aim is both the show that the international community is united in opposition to the DPRK becoming a nuclear power, and that if North Korea actually is willing to negotiate the end of its nuclear and weapons programmes, the international community will work with that country to help develop it and improve the quality of life of its people.
“in the past year, we have seen a number of African countries take extremely positive steps to go beyond the UN Security Council Resolutions in promising to sever ties to North Korea,” assured Scott. “We are encouraged by the actions of multiple countries in the past year to disrupt North Korea’s activities in the region, including by expelling North Korean labourers, decreasing and/or ceasing all trade ties, refusing to renew DPRK labour contracts, denying high-level visits from and to Pyongyang, and making public statements condemning the DPRK’s unlawful activities. All of these actions send a strong message to North Korea and show the global support of limiting the influence of DPRK activities worldwide. More, however, needs to be done to stem North Korea’s activities in Africa.”