With the pace of news of North Korea sanctions news lately, my bookmarks folder is starting to look like what the paramedics found at the Cat Lady’s house after the neighbors noticed a foul odor. Today, I want to catch up with our efforts to deny Pyongyang a haven for its money laundering network, with a focus on Southeast Asia. To review the administration’s progress since January, you may want to start here and here. Ambassador Nikki Haley also gave this summary in a recent speech at the U.N.:
In addition to our work here in the Security Council, many nations have taken their own strong actions against North Korea’s threat to peace. Just this year, as North Korea’s behavior has become more intolerable, over 20 countries from every corner of the globe have restricted or ended their diplomatic relations. Mexico, Peru, Italy, Spain, and Kuwait have expelled North Korea’s ambassadors from their countries. Portugal and the United Arab Emirates have suspended diplomatic relations. The Philippines and Taiwan have suspended all trade with North Korea. Singapore, formerly North Korea’s seventh largest trading partner, has cut all trade ties. Uganda has halted all military and security ties. The European Union, Australia, South Korea, and Japan have made additional sacrifices for peace and security by going well beyond what the Security Council requires. [link]
After which, she castigates a certain unnamed country for violating the coal ban — if you were here, you’d hear me sneezing, “ah-CHI-na!” and you’d say, “Gesundheit.” By now, I’d think we’ve given any remaining Chinese buyers of that coal fair warning.
– If you start anywhere, start with this report by Sheena Chestnut Greitens on efforts by the Obama and Trump administrations to convince South Asian and Southeast Asian nations to cut ties with Pyongyang. The record is mixed, but Trump has clearly had more success here than Obama. Burma has also kicked out a North Korean diplomat, and Malaysia is reviewing its diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
– The Wall Street Journal reports that Singapore has agreed to suspend all trade with North Korea. This would be a big deal if Singapore follows through. Singapore has previously been named in North Korea’s luxury goods trade, its (possibly counterfeit) tobacco trade, arms trade (via Glocom), money laundering and arms trafficking in the Chinpo Shipping case, and transactions with blocked persons.
– This commendably detailed report by (believe it or not) Buzzfeed examines why, in light of the Kim Jong-nam assassination, Malaysia still has not cut its diplomatic or commercial ties with North Korea. I previously wrote about Malaysia’s lax sanctions implementation and lack of anti-money laundering compliance here.
– India continues to say it’s making efforts to restrict trade with North Korea.
– Vietnam has expelled the local head of Wonyang Shipping, a subsidiary of Ocean Maritime Management, the U.N.-designated North Korean arms smuggler. It has also denied visas for more than 20 North Korean hackers PUST graduates “IT workers.”
– Angola, which has been implicated in several reports of the U.N. Panel of Experts for its arms trade with North Korea, including patrol boat engines, says it has deported 50 North Korean workers, who follow “dozens” of others who left the day before. Their employer was named as “Mansudae,” a likely reference to the U.N.-designated Mansudae Overseas Projects Group.
It may be that for our diplomats, the easy work has already been done. We’re now working on persuading states whose ties to Pyongyang are more persistent. I’m all for asking nicely once, and sometimes twice. I have to think we’ve asked (to name an obvious example) Malaysia nicely enough times. If I were calling the shots, I’d put Glocom, Pan Systems, and MKP Partners on the SDN List now.
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Update: See also this report from that other organization called ISIS, naming the countries that continue to violate sanctions.