In the News – North Korea evading UN luxury goods ban to smoke, drink, drive: panel

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In the News – North Korea evading UN luxury goods ban to smoke, drink, drive: panel

(Reuters) – Ten thousand rolls of tobacco, 12 bottles of Sake, and a handful of second-hand Mercedes-Benz cars are among the latest reported breaches byNorth Korea of a U.N. ban on luxury goods sales to the reclusive state, according to a confidential draft U.N. report.

Japan told a U.N. panel of experts that Pyongyang also imported thousands of computers and thousands of dollars worth of cosmetics and that almost all the goods were shipped through China, it was reported in the draft seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The five North Korean violations reported to the panel by Japan during the past year took place between 2008 and 2010. The panel was also informed of another two potential violations, but they have not yet been officially reported by Japan.

Two rounds of U.N. sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests ban the sale of luxury items to the state’s government. It was also hit with an arms embargo and is forbidden from trading in nuclear and missile technology.

The panel also said it was investigating reports of possible North Korean weapons-related sales to Syria and Myanmar, as well as other reports of arms-related violations.

The report, which was submitted to the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee this week, said implementation of the luxury goods ban was “deeply problematic” because it was up to each country to create a blacklist and not all had done so.

“Also the DPRK (North Korea) is able to exploit differences between such lists, where they exist, to avoid bans in one member state by shopping in another – and the panel sees little evidence of information sharing between member states on what might be included on these lists,” the report said.

WHAT’S A LUXURY?

“Definitions of luxury goods by member states are not consistent. Chinese customs officials told the panel that most of the above mentioned goods were not considered as luxury goods by China,” it said.

The panel of experts wrote that Pyongyang residents and visitors said luxury cars were seen in the city and that luxury goods – both authentic and forgeries and including expensive liquors and cosmetics – were widely and openly available.

“All this indicates that the ban on luxury goods has not yet disrupted effectively the supply of such goods either to the DPRK elite or to the rising Pyongyang middle class,” it noted.

The U.N. panel also said it was collecting more information about media reports that the U.N.’s World Intellectual Property Organization may have violated the sanctions by shipping computers and computer servers to North Korea.

The panel visited Italy to obtain documents on several cases of previously reported violations, including a foiled attempt by North Korea to import high quality U.S.-made tap dancing shoes valued at almost $200 a pair.

The experts also traveled to Switzerland to investigate sales of Swiss luxury watches to Pyongyang.

“The panel learned that hardly any watch sales to DPRK are in the luxury category,” the report said.

“The panel concluded that any luxury watches sold in the DPRK most likely are sourced elsewhere. Industry officials pointed out that manufacturers had little control over who purchased their watches once globally distributed,” it wrote.

Original article can be found here.

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In the News – N.Korea ‘Spent Enough on Nukes to Buy Food for 8 Years’

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In the News – N.Korea ‘Spent Enough on Nukes to Buy Food for 8 Years’

Chronically hard-up North Korea has spent a total of US$6.58 billion on nuclear weapons development and now has a dozen bombs, including three uranium weapons, a South Korean expert claims. The expert, who requested anonymity, said the money would have been enough to buy 1,940 tons of corn from China or eight year’s worth of rations for the North Korean people.

Since the 1980s, North Korea spent $2.01 billion on building nuclear facilities including those in Yongbyon, $310 million on related research, $2.72 billion to operate the facilities, $1.34 billion to develop nuclear weapons, and $200 million on nuclear tests, he claimed.

North Korea says it operates 2,000 uranium-enrichment centrifuges. If that is true, it would be able to produce 40 kg of highly enriched uranium per year. Since it takes 15 to 25 kg of uranium to produce one nuclear weapon, North Korea may have developed one to two uranium bombs a year, the expert explained.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea believed to have enriched uranium for up to 6 bombs: expert

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In the News – N. Korea believed to have enriched uranium for up to 6 bombs: expert

SEOUL, May 2 (Yonhap) — North Korea is believed to now have enough large stocks of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium for up to six bombs, a local nuclear expert said Wednesday, amid growing concerns that the North may be ready for a new nuclear test.

The North has long been believed to have enough radioactive material for six to seven bombs using plutonium from its main nuclear complex located at Yongbyon, north of the capital Pyongyang. Since 2009, Pyongyang appears to have started relying on enrichment activities because of its dwindling stock of plutonium after two rounds of nuclear tests.

In November 2010, North Korea disclosed an industrial-scale uranium enrichment plant to a visiting U.S. scientist, claiming that the enrichment program is for peaceful energy development. Outside experts, however, believe that it gives the North a new source of fissile material to make atomic bombs. Continue reading

In the News – U.S. and North Korean officials meet to seal food aid deal

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In the News – U.S. and North Korean officials meet to seal food aid deal

(CNN) — U.S. and North Korean officials are meeting Wednesday in Beijing to settle the details of a plan to allow the resumption of food aid to the North.

The talks take place against a backdrop of bellicose images and rhetoric from Pyongyang. North Korean television this week aired footage of a military unit carrying out live-fire drills in sight of a South Korean island.

Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, is holding talks with representatives from Pyongyang on Wednesday to “finalize all of the technical arrangements so that the nutritional assistance can begin to move,” according to the U.S. State Department. Continue reading