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U.N. Sanctions Panel Calls on States to be Wary of North Korean Diplomats

A newly published report by a U.N. Security Council committee calls on countries with diplomatic and commercial ties to North Korea to be on the lookout for illicit efforts by Pyongyang's envoys to secretly use their stations to proliferate and acquire nuclear technology, Kyodo News reported on Monday.

"Countries hosting embassies, permanent missions or trade representative offices of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea should be particularly vigilant regarding its diplomats and officials," reads the report by the panel of experts that oversees the implementation of U.N. sanctions against the North.

The 130-page document highlights a 2011 incident where two North Korean trade officials assigned to a mission in Belarus visited Ukraine, where they met with a worker at the Yuzhnoye Design Office. The facility formerly designed medium-range ballistic missiles and the purpose of the visit was to view classified scholarly documents, though the effort was thwarted. The North Korean officials were apprehended last year and given a prison sentence of eight years.

Pyongyang's onetime representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency in the 1990s, Yun Ho Jin, during his tenure at his nation's embassy in Vienna, Austria, ran "an illicit procurement network and [conducted] other illicit and criminal activities," according to the U.N. report. 

"It is highly likely that similar activities are conducted out of the country's other embassies, diplomatic missions and trade missions abroad," the expert panel concluded.

The Security Council committee advised that 11 more individuals and four new organizations be added to the sanctions list. The suggested targeted persons include two from Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The entities are the North Korean State Space Development Bureau, the Atomic Energy Industry Ministry, the Hesong Trading Corporation, and the Korean Workers' Party's Munitions Industry Department.

"In both its export and import of goods under sanctions, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea continues to use a variety of techniques to circumvent national controls, indicating that the imposition of sanctions has hampered its arms sales and illicit weapon programs," the U.N. panel found.

The committee was able to publish its annual report this year as veto holder China did not object to its release, as it typically does. Beijing has also acquiesced to a plan to expand the panel by one more additional member. These moves by China illustrate it is doing less to protect North Korea from international scrutiny and punishment than it used to, according to the Korea Herald.

China is understood to remain upset with North Korea for ignoring its calls last year to refrain from conducting two long-range rocket launches and carrying out this February's underground nuclear test. 

Still, it is unlikely that North Korea will be persuaded by diplomatic engagement to give up its nuclear weapons program, the Obama White House's onetime point man for arms control and nonproliferation, Gary Samore said. He added that a more realistic goal in the short term would be to get Pyongyang to halt its production of nuclear-weapon usable material, the Associated Press reported.

"We shouldn't minimize the value of postponing as long as we can the next round of rocket or nuclear tests, recognizing that any deal we have with North Korea is likely to fall apart in the end because they cheat or renege on it," said Samore at a Monday event on U.S.-Korea ties.

Elsewhere, the South Korean Ministry on Tuesday said it was not contemplating holding talks with the North on the margins of next week's Association of Southeastern Nations regional security forum, Kyodo reported. The top diplomats from both Koreas are anticipated to be in attendance at the Brunei event.

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