A SMALL fishing port in Mozambique is being used to help North Korea dodge sanctions and generate much-needed revenue for Kim Jong-un's regime.

A CNN investigation has revealed Mozambique's ageing fishing vessels are actually sanction-busting trawlers with crews from North Korea.

However, fish isn't the only way the North is boosting state coffers.

Mozambique is helping North Korea avoid tough sanctions. Picture: Google Maps
Mozambique is helping North Korea avoid tough sanctions. Picture: Google Maps

CNN's month-long investigation revealed there is a secret web of front companies, military co-operation and elite-forces training deals between the two nations.

It found money is being funnelled from Mozambique through regionally based North Korean diplomats to Pyongyang in a variety of ways.

The deals, worth millions of dollars, come despite tough rounds of international sanctions which are designed to punish the secretive regime for its missile tests and ongoing nuclear program.

North Korea has also been conducting military training exercises at a base in Mozambique capital Maputo, helping boost the East African country's own capabilities.

TIP OF THE ICEBERG

Mozambique isn't the only nation that has been linked to propping up the secretive regime.

Park Strategies senior vice president Sean King, an expert on Asian politics, said he was not surprised by the findings revealed in the CNN investigation.

Mr King said it was just one small way North Korea was getting around the sanctions. "This doesn't surprise me in the least, as it's just another example of the multinational criminal enterprise that North Korea is and has maintained all around the world for many years," he said.

"Pyongyang also runs similar operations and fronts across Southeast Asia, such as Bangkok restaurants, and until recently, throughout Eastern and Central Europe.

"For example, a hotel in the former East Berlin, an events hall in Bulgaria and slave labour exports to Poland."

Mr King said the fact was money is "fungible" [replaceable by another identical item].

"So even something as seemingly innocent as fish can generate much-needed hard currency to help sustain the Kim regime and fund its weapons program," he said.

"We should thus cut off said revenues at every possible turn."

Mr King noticed the North Koreans in the CNN video weren't wearing Kim loyalty badges. Their not wearing the badges could be part of an effort to conceal their identities while sanctions against North Korea are in force, he suggested. They clearly didn't seem eager to talk when media approached.

US President Donald Trump has been pushing China to take tougher action against its ally.

Washington wants China, which accounts for 90 per cent of North Korea's foreign trade, to put more economic pressure on the reclusive regime.

China has already imposed its own banking restrictions on North Koreans. It has also introduced a series of UN measures that include bans on imports of coal, iron ore and seafood from the North.

CURRENCY GENERATOR

The CNN investigation comes as it emerged North Korea has been using its embassy in Berlin to procure parts for its missile program.

The head of Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency has told a German broadcaster activities have taken place which aroused suspicion.

In a program to be aired on NDR television today, BfV head Hans-Georg Maassen said: "We determined that procurement activities have been carried out from there that are, in our view, done with a view to the missile program and sometimes also for the nuclear program."

He said it was often so-called dual use goods - which can be used for both civil and military purposes.

Mr Massen also said it was necessary to presume that parts for North Korea's launch program "were acquired via other markets or underground buyers had acquired them in Germany".

MONEY SPINNER

UN experts have also revealed in a new report that the North is continuing to defy sanctions, earning the regime millions of dollars in hard currency.

North Korea is flouting sanctions on oil and gas, engaging in prohibited ballistic missile co-operation with Syria and Myanmar, and illegally exporting commodities that brought in nearly $200 million in just nine months last year, experts found.

Pyongyang is still able to access the global financial system through "deceptive practices combined with critical deficiencies in the implementation of financial sanctions" and continues to engage in "widespread conventional arms deals and cyber operations to steal military secrets," their report said.

The experts' report to the UN Security Council, obtained last Friday by The Associated Press, said North Korean diplomats "continue to play a key role in the country's prohibited programs".

North Korea has remained defiant insisting it will not stop its weapons program. Picture: Kim Won-jin/AFP
North Korea has remained defiant insisting it will not stop its weapons program. Picture: Kim Won-jin/AFP

The latest resolution in December - in response to the launch of a ballistic missile that Pyongyang says is capable of reaching anywhere on the US mainland - sharply lowered limits on North Korea's refined oil imports and authorised the inspection and seizure of ships suspected of smuggling banned items including coal and oil to and from the country.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said sanctions now ban well over 90 per cent of North Korea's exports reported in 2016.

But the expansion of UN sanctions hasn't been matched by the "political will", international co-ordination, and allocation of resources to implement them, it was revealed.

The UN report also investigated illegal ship-to-ship transfers of oil "comprising a multimillion-dollar business that is driving an international network of brokers and ship charterers as well as unwitting global commodity trading companies and oil suppliers."

North Korea also continued its illegal coal exports by combining deceptive navigation patterns, trans-shipment through other countries and fraudulent documentation "to obscure the origin of the coal".

The report said North Korea exported coal to China, Malaysia, South Korea, Russia and Vietnam in 2017 in violation of sanctions.

It said "a network of foreign traders responsible for violations of the coal ban operates through numerous front companies" registered in Australia, British Virgin Islands, China, Hong Kong, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Seychelles and the United Kingdom.

North Korea exported $125 million of iron ore to China last year in violation of sanctions.

 

- With Reuters and AP

 

debra.killalea@news.com.au



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