January 29, 2018

The Missing Piece in the World’s North Korea Strategy

By ​Neil Bhatiya

Last Wednesday, the United States Treasury added to its economic pressure campaign against North Korea, sanctioning a variety of entities the Kim regime uses to evade international, multilateral sanctions. In announcing moves against these targets on January 24, the Treasury Department said that “[t]oday’s sanctions target agents of the Kim regime financing or otherwise supporting North Korea’s WMD programs and other illicit businesses.”  

While the administration and its allies in the region have relied on military deterrence and ratcheting up of sanctions, there is a missing component: a concerted international effort to roll back North Korea’s abuse of the global financial system to aid in the procurement of weapons of mass destruction, which those who study the issue call countering proliferation finance (CPF).

These new designations follow a number of high-profile cases underscoring how North Korea evades international sanctions. At the end of 2017, South Korean authorities announced that they had seized a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker suspected of transferring oil to North Korea, in violation of international sanctions designed to deter the country’s further pursuit of nuclear weapons capability. This is the second such seizure since November 2017 and underlines the sophistication of North Korea’s proliferation networks. While many states have engaged in transnational financial criminal behavior — money laundering and sanctions evasion — the threat emanating from North Korea is unique. Its ability to exploit weak spots in the global financial regulatory and nuclear nonproliferation regimes is unparalleled.

Read the full op-ed in The Diplomat.

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