Weaponry manufactured in DPRK seized in Africa

World Today


As concern rises over Pyongyang’s latest missile tests, a U.N. report has found that weapons from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have been making their way to Africa. And those weapons are also ending up in the hands of U.N. peacekeepers.

CGTN’s Liling Tan filed this report.

Weaponry manufactured in DPRK seized in Africa

Military arms shipments from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have been reaching the African continent. What's more, some of these weapons have ended up in the hands of United Nations peacekeepers. At a time when international scrutiny of the DPRK regime is increasing, these violations of the UN arms embargo are especially troubling.

In August last year, Egypt intercepted a cargo ship from the DPRK to the Suez Canal and discovered 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades concealed in iron ore.

It’s the largest seizure of ammunition in the history of sanctions against the DPRK, but just one example of how the East Asian nation has been using Africa to circumvent sanctions.

“This is the most porous area globally. And so the North Koreans will take advantage of that. And the fact that there are not tight controls and that there is an ability to hit ports throughout the coastal areas to bring things in through other illicit measures,” said Stephen Noerper, the Senior Director of Korea Society at Columbia University.

The U.N. report by the panel of experts on DPRK sanctions reveals an increasing effort by Pyongyang to flout the arms embargo and adopt evasive techniques to earn hard currency.

It also described how weapons had ended up in the hands of Congolese security forces, and even made their way to the U.N.’s own mission in the Central African Republic.

“North Korea right now as it has come under tighter sanctions, it has to work harder and become more innovative in order to earn foreign currency. The point I would also make about certain countries in Africa is that they themselves are nefarious regimes at times as well, so you get this convergence of different nefarious actors committing different human rights abuses, and birds of the same feather flock together,” said Kent Boydston, a research analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The problem may be from both the demand side from Africa and the supply side from the DPRK, but the concern is universal.

“The ramifications are extremely significant because it makes it much more dangerous, it encourages civil conflicts because weapons are flowing in at very low cost and in direct violation of these sanctions. It’s also an offset to reliance on Beijing. So Pyongyang sees it as a way of getting hard currency and avoiding too much dependency on China,” Noerper said.

The reports said that weapons seized in the past few years include grenades, pistols, assault rifles, anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, as well as radios.

While these discoveries raise questions about the effectiveness of the arms embargo against the DPRK, experts say it’s less about the law than the implementation–U.N. member states need to better implement the sanctions and step up their reporting of illicit trade.