September 13, 2019

North Korea’s Sanctions-Busting Gets More Sophisticated—and More Lucrative

By ​Neil Bhatiya

As a United Nations report revealed earlier this month, North Korea continues to dodge international sanctions and raise money for its nuclear weapons program, despite attempts to bar it from the global financial system. The report from the panel of experts charged by the U.N. Security Council with overseeing enforcement of U.N. sanctions on North Korea conclusively shows how Pyongyang capitalizes on an old method of sanctions-busting—smuggling—and a much newer one: hacking. In both cases, its tactics are getting more innovative.

When it comes to smuggling, North Korea’s use of ship-to-ship transfers continues to circumvent sanctions “unabated,” including through previously unreported methods. North Korea has been so successful in importing refined petroleum that the U.N. report said there are no current shortages of gasoline or diesel fuel within the country. Meanwhile, Pyongyang has used increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks “to steal funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges,” the report warned, allowing it “to evade financial sanctions and generate income in ways that are harder to trace.” In both cases, North Korea relies on jurisdictions that lack either the will or the ability to stop it.

Read the full article in World Politics Review.

  • Commentary
    • March 27, 2020
    Sharper: Global Coronavirus Response

    As regions across the United States enforce states of emergency and a growing list of countries restrict travel, close schools, and quarantine citizens, the economic and human...

    By Chris Estep & Cole Stevens

  • Commentary
    • The Hill
    • March 27, 2020
    How an ease of sanctions may combat the coronavirus crisis

    Pressure is increasing to ease sanctions on Iran and Venezuela in response to the coronavirus crisis. Prominent Democrats in Congress have called on the administration to lift...

    By Peter Harrell

  • Commentary
    • Lawfare
    • March 27, 2020
    Cryptocurrency Laundering Is a National Security Risk

    On March 2, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted two Chinese nationals for allegedly laundering cryptocurrency on behalf of North Korea. The laundering scheme ferreted away...

    By Yaya J. Fanusie

  • Commentary
    • March 25, 2020
    Fallout from the New Oil War

    On the back of Covid-19–related economic declines and a corresponding fall in demand for energy, oil markets have collapsed in recent days. This has contributed to a massive m...

    By Elizabeth Rosenberg & ​Neil Bhatiya

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia