North Korea continued to flout international sanctions to earn nearly $200 million in 2017 from banned exports of coal and other commodities, according to a U.N. experts' report seen by Kyodo News Friday.
The confidential report to a U.N. Security Council sanctions committee also referenced information that the reclusive country provided ballistic missile systems to Myanmar.
The report comes despite the 15-member council having ramped up its sanctions on Pyongyang to suffocate funding for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
"The DPRK is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system," the report said, referring to the country by its formal name -- the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
After scrutinizing more than 30 coal shipments from the North to ports in China, South Korea, Malaysia, Russia and Vietnam, the committee identified at least 16 that should have been reported, although these transactions took place prior to the Aug. 5 U.N. resolution banning all coal exports.
The committee said Malaysia reported one shipment during this time, while the remaining 15 violated sanctions. It chalked up the majority of these failures to "falsified paperwork accompanying the coal (that) claimed its origin as countries other than the DPRK."
"The network of foreign traders responsible for violations of the coal ban operates through numerous front companies registered in multiple jurisdictions," the committee said.
It pointed out "extensive use of a combination of multiple evasion tactics including indirect routes, detours, loitering, false documentation, trans-shipment through third countries" and other methods to obfuscate routes and hide the origin of North Korean coal.
"The consistency and similarity of the tactics suggest that they are part of a centralized DPRK strategy to evade the commodities ban," the document said.
Apart from coal, it accused North Korea of continuing to export "almost all the commodities prohibited in the resolutions," with major sources of revenue coming from banned trade in resources such as iron and steel as well as iron ore.
Over the past year, North Korea has been subject to three Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions for detonating its sixth and most powerful nuclear test as well as a spate of ballistic missile tests showing signs of advanced technology.
The council moved to curb North Korea's coal exports -- the cash-strapped country's biggest foreign currency earner -- in 2016 and introduced a total ban on them in August 2017.
Concerning North Korea's weapons provision to Myanmar, the report cited an anonymous country as saying it has evidence of the transactions, and that in addition to ballistic missiles Pyongyang also supplied conventional weapons, including multiple rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles.
The committee also investigated cases of ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products in violation of the U.N. sanctions and found that the network behind these vessels is primarily based in Taiwan, the report said.
North Korea has continuously defended its right to maintain its nuclear weapons as a means of protecting itself from the United States. It sees Washington as a threat, and especially objects to the annual military drills that it jointly conducts with South Korea, which typically increase tensions in the region.