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
    • The Atlantic Council
    • September 14, 2022
    Sand in the silicon: Designing an outbound investment controls mechanism

    Recent congressional efforts to establish new authorities to regulate outbound investment have revived a long-simmering debate in Washington about the economic and security ri...

    By Emily Kilcrease & Sarah Bauerle Danzman

  • Podcast
    • August 2, 2022
    The Cost of Economic War

    Sanctions, not bombs, have been the weapon chosen to take on the Putin regime. BBC speaks with macroeconomist Rachel Ziemba about the effectiveness of modern economic statecra...

    By Rachel Ziemba

  • Reports
    • December 7, 2021
    Containing Crisis

    As the United States and China seek to manage an increasingly tense relationship, both sides have turned to coercive economic statecraft as a core part of their broader foreig...

    By Emily Kilcrease, Emily Jin & Rachel Ziemba

  • Commentary
    • National Interest
    • June 9, 2021
    Why Biden Should Extend Vaccine Diplomacy to Sanctioned States Like Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea

    Extending vaccine diplomacy to heavily sanctioned countries will allow Washington to both hedge against growing Chinese-Russian influence abroad and help alleviate global huma...

    By Jason Bartlett

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia