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UN Experts: N. Korea Has Not Stopped Nuke, Missile Programs

North Korea has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs and is violating UN sanctions including by a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, UN experts said in a new report
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho as South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha looks on at the ASEAN meeting in Singapore on August 4.US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho as South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha looks on at the ASEAN meeting in Singapore on August 4.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho shook hands and exchanged words and smiles at a Southeast Asian security forum on Saturday in Singapore

North Korea has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs in violation of United Nations sanctions, according to a confidential UN report.

The six-month report by independent experts monitoring the implementation of UN sanctions was submitted to the Security Council North Korea sanctions committee late on Friday, Reuters reported.

"[North Korea] has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs 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," the experts wrote in the 149-page report.

The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment on the report.

The UN report said North Korea is cooperating militarily with Syria and has been trying to sell weapons to Yemen's Houthis.

Pyongyang also violated a textile ban by exporting more than $100 million in goods between October 2017 and March 2018 to China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey and Uruguay, the report said.

The report comes as Russia and China suggest the 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 toward denuclearization.

The United States and other council members have said there must be strict enforcement of sanctions until Pyongyang acts.

>Ship-to-Ship Transfers

The UN experts said illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products in international waters had "increased in scope, scale and sophistication." They said a key North Korean technique was to turn off a ship's tracking system, but that they were also physically disguising ships and using smaller vessels.

The Security Council has unanimously sanctioned North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

The experts said "prohibited military cooperation with the Syrian Arab Republic has continued unabated." They said North Korean technicians engaged in ballistic missile and other banned activities have visited Syria in 2011, 2016 and 2017.

The report said experts were investigating efforts by the North Korean Ministry of Military Equipment and Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) to supply conventional arms and ballistic missiles to Yemen's Houthi group.

A country, which was not identified, showed the experts a July 13, 2016 letter from a Houthi leader inviting the North Koreans to meet in Damascus "to discuss the issue of the transfer of technology and other matters of mutual interest," according to the report.

The experts said the effectiveness of financial sanctions was being systematically undermined by "deceptive practices" of North Korea.

>Handshakes and Smiles

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho shook hands and exchanged words and smiles at a Southeast Asian security forum on Saturday in Singapore.

Pompeo said before the brief encounter during a group photo session at the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) regional forum that he had not held talks with Ri during his visit to Singapore.

Ri said on Saturday he was increasingly alarmed by US attitudes toward the country but said it remained firm in its determination to implement the nuclear deal it reached with Washington in June.

The United States and North Korea pledged to end the North's nuclear program and establish peace on the Korean peninsula in the landmark June agreement reached by their leaders in Singapore.

"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."

Pompeo pressed Southeast Asian nations at regional meetings in Singapore this week to maintain sanctions on North Korea but said he was optimistic that the deal to end the North's nuclear program would be implemented.

"We have initiated goodwill measures of, inter alia, a moratorium on nuclear tests and rocket launch tests and dismantling of nuclear test ground," Ri said in a statement delivered to the ASEAN forum.

"However, the United States, instead of responding to these measures, is raising its voice louder for maintaining the sanctions against the DPRK and showing the attitude to retreat even from declaring the end of the war, a very basic and primary step for providing peace on the Korean peninsula."

North Korea, backed by China, fought the South and US-led UN forces in the 1950-53 Korean War which ended in a mere truce, not a peace treaty.

>Pompeo Optimistic

Pompeo said on Saturday the process of ending North Korea's nuclear program would take time but he was optimistic that it would be achieved within a timeline set by the leaders of the two countries.

It was important to maintain diplomatic and economic pressure, Pompeo said on the sidelines of the regional conference, adding the United States took very seriously any relaxation of UN sanctions against North Korea.

"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 told a news conference.

"The work has begun. The process of achieving denuclearization of the [Korean] peninsula is one that I think we have all known would take some time."

Pompeo, who has been leading the US negotiations to get the North to abandon its nuclear program, had primarily engaged with Kim Yong-chol, a top North Korean party official and former spy agency chief, and not Ri.

US Ambassador Sung Kim, who has long been a key negotiator on the nuclear issue, said earlier he had no plans to meet the North Koreans in Singapore.

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