North Korea is likely on the lookout to expand its illicit trade outlets after being stung by the latest round of United Nations sanctions. But now, less inclined to make new deals might be the countries who previously did business with the rogue state.
Including weaponry, synthetic drugs, counterfeit currency and nuclear technology, Pyongyang props up its nuclear program with income from the sale of various illegal goods. A range of frontier markets across Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia are the buyers of those goods. And until now, the buyers have never betrayed North Korea even though the country has been under sanctions since 2006.
Fewer nations may now be willing to risk the international community’s wrath by engaging with Kim as Washington and Beijing turn up the heat on Kim Jong-un’s regime, reflected by Saturday’s new penalties.
“There is now a much greater effort…to cut Pyongyang’s diplomatic ties in the developing world and raise awareness of various U.N. resolutions,” said Karl Dewey, an analyst specialized in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear assessments at defense researcher Jane’s by IHS Markit.
The U.S. State Department estimated that $1 billion from Pyongyang’s coffers could be subtracted by the fresh set of penalties imposed on Kim’s administration this past Saturday.
“Tighter sanctions and added pressure from the U.S. could make it even more difficult for North Korea to push through some future contracts as countries could think twice about buying from North Korea at this time,” echoed Omar Lamrani, senior military analyst at geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor.
The nitty-gritty of Saturday’s resolution is a key reason behind the potential shift in mentality from previous years.
Stephan Haggard, visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics, said in a note that jurisdictions that are non-compliant with U.N. resolutions is the subject of one of the secondary sanctions efforts.
Haggard added that ports in China, Iran, Russia and Syria that “do not engage in inspections and essentially permit transshipment and trade to take place” are specifically highlighted.
The legislation could have more effect “with other developing countries more concerned about their reputation with the West” even while those nations may not change their behavior anytime soon.
Amid reports of cozier bilateral ties, Tehran could increase exchanges related to ballistic missiles with Pyongyang is the speculation that is running high. For a trip that was widely seen as a front for expanded m military cooperation, the head of North Korea’s parliament arrived in Tehran last week.
Rather than outright transactions, both nations have focused on nuclear cooperation in the past. “The main elements of this cooperation appear to be the transfer of North Korean liquid-fueled missile technology to Iran, but with very few reports of Iranian solid-fueled technology going the other way,” said Dewey.
Experts, however, said that they don’t believe there’s likely to be any heightened activity.
“North Korea’s nuclear program is all about ensuring its security by deterring foreign attack. Crossing over into significant nuclear proliferation weakens that deterrence by adding pressure on the U.S. and allies to act on Pyongyang instead of simply containing it,” Lamrani said.
Andrea Berger outlined in a 2016 paper when she was deputy director of the proliferation and nuclear policy program at the Royal United Services Institute that when it comes to military hardware sales, clients of North Korea can be classified into three groups.
Fellow renegade nations such as Iran, Syria, Cuba and Uganda are among the most resilient customers, “whose military ties to North Korea have weathered decades and shown few efforts to cease cooperation,” Berger said.
Berger continued that reluctant customers, such as Ethiopia and Yemen, “might prefer to buy elsewhere, but because of price or lingering dependency have found it difficult to cut Pyongyang out of their arms-related supply chain”.
Dewey noted they could be susceptible to striking more deals depending on whether prices justified the increasing pressure surrounding North Korea even as those markets are now expected to stay away from Pyongyang in light of the new sanctions.
(Adapted from CNBC)