North Korea is focusing on developing nuclear weapons and missiles while evading the United Nations’ sanction more tactfully. According to a report released on Wednesday by the U.N. Sanctions Committee on North Korea, Pyongyang has been using underwater oil pipelines, not to mention making illegal ship-to-ship oil transfers at sea in order to evade international surveillance. Moreover, the North is focusing on mining uranium and acquiring centrifuges to manufacture more nuclear weapons.
The U.N. report shows the effects and, at the same time, the limits of sanctions on the communist state. As the tight sanctions are jeopardizing the Pyongyang regime’s lifeline, North Korea is eyeing more elaborate methods of earning foreign exchanges. The international body has detected circumstances indicating that the North launched cyberattacks on foreign financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges, and laundered money by using cryptocurrencies. As such, the North is using more advanced methods of evading sanctions, while the international community is stifling the Kim Jong Un regime with tighter sanctions. The fact that the North is seeking to have the sanctions lifted by coming to the negotiating table proves that the sanctions are producing desired effects.
Despite denuclearization negotiations, however, North Korea is building its nuclear arsenal by operating its nuclear and missile facilities. Although Pyongyang is demanding sanctions relief under the excuse of humanitarian reasons, it remains possible that the North will use the money to develop nuclear weapons once the sanctions are lifted. In particular, demolishing the junks at the Yongbyon nuclear facility falls short of a nuclear freeze that would remove the North’s ability to produce additional nuclear weapons. The U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi collapsed because the North insisted on dismantling only the Yongbyon facility while keeping other secret nuclear facilities intact. How could one trust the North’s sincerity?
The U.N. report also pointed out Pyongyang’s violation of the ban on luxury goods import, showing a photo of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un having a car parade in Pyongyang last year on a Mercedes-Benz limousine which the North acquired illegally. The South Korean government should look back on whether it is the U.N.’s implicit warning for sympathizing with the North’s call for sanctions relief and failing to prevent Pyongyang’s coal smuggling while adhering to making progress in the inter-Korean relations.