N.Korean Arms Dealers Run Out of Safe Havens

      April 29, 2016 10:21

      North Korea's sources of hard currency overseas are drying up as even friendly countries implement UN sanctions against the regime and expel its arms dealers.

      Vietnam on April 23 deported Choe Song-il, who has been blacklisted by the UN Security Council for overseeing North Korean arms sales in Southeast Asia, Voice of America reported on Thursday.

      Choe had been living in Vietnam since 2013, where he allegedly managed revenues from arms exports and personally delivered the cash to Pyongyang. He was placed on the UNSC blacklist in March, which obliges UN member nations to freeze his assets and expel him.

      North Korea fought on the North Vietnamese side in the Vietnam War and the two countries have since maintained relatively friendly ties.

      Egypt has also deported three blacklisted North Korean officials, according to Radio Free Asia. Two were representatives of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID), which is also under U.S. sanctions. The third was a state security agent.

      The three North Koreans apparently went to Egypt clandestinely and tried to sell arms to African and Middle Eastern countries. RFA reported that North Korean Ambassador to Egypt, Pak Chun-il "played a key role" in establishing the local KOMID branch and is also about to be expelled.

      Burma apparently expelled North Korean Ambassador Kim Sok-chol and several KOMID officials there last month. Kim was the first incumbent ambassador to be placed on a U.S. sanctions list on charges of spearheading North Korea's illicit arms exports. Pyongyang made an estimated US$300 million in hard currency from arms sales last year.

      Meanwhile, North Korea's traditional allies China and Russia have also shelved business projects with North Korea and barred North Korean ships from their ports.

      Russian state-run gas company Gazprom last month severed ties with the North for fear that dealing with Pyongyang could risk incurring U.S. and international sanctions. Gazprom had been involved in prospecting for gas deposits and other energy-related ventures with the North.

      Last month, Russia turned back a North Korean vessel attempting to dock in the Siberian port of Vostochny.

      China earlier this month banned trading of 25 items with North Korea and is barring North Korean ships from its ports.

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