United Nations report: North Korea continuing nuclear program

A United Nations report has accused North Korea of continuing to develop nuclear and missile programs in violation of international sanctions.

The six-month report by independent experts monitoring the implementation of U.N. sanctions was submitted to the Security Council North Korea sanctions committee late on Friday.

“(North Korea) has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs and continued to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, as well as through transfers of coal at sea during 2018,” the experts wrote in the 149-page report.

The UN report comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in Singapore for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial meeting, told reporters that he was an advocate of keeping pressure on Pyongyang as the country has yet to take any concrete steps to dismantling its nuclear program.

"I've also emphasized the importance of maintaining diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea, to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of the DPRK as agreed to by Chairman Kim," he said, referring to the isolated north Asian nation by its official title, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The UN report says that Pyongyang has "flouted" the caps on its import of petroleum and crude oil as well as a coal ban imposed last year through "illicit" ship-to-ship transfers of over 500,000 barrels of refined petroleum products, as well as oil and coal at sea.

These ship-to-ship transfers involve "increasingly sophisticated evasion techniques" which involve manipulating the vessels' Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) and also disguising DPRK tankers, according to the report. The US recently provided intelligence about illegal ship-to-ship transfers along with photographs to the sanctions committee.

If accurate, North Korea is now in violation of a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution, which means all UN member countries would have to "immediately" halt all transfers to ‎North Korea.

The report says North Korea also continues to defy an arms embargo, and financial sanctions -- which it calls "some of the most poorly implemented and actively evaded measures of the sanctions regime."

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Saturday that denuclearization should happen phase by phase and referred to a Korean proverb "slowly but surely" when describing the country's preferred approach to denuclearization.

"A fastest and most reliable shortcut to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is to build confidence in good faith through taking one-by-one and phase-by phase simultaneous actions," Ri said in a statement posted in the press room of the ASEAN summit.

He also condemned the US for "raising its voice louder" to maintain sanctions on his country and warned that "impatience is not helpful at all for building confidence."

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