A U.N.-blacklisted North Korean shipping company continues to evade sanctions through its use of foreign-flagged ships, name changes and other means of obfuscation, according to a new report by United Nations monitors.
The U.N. Security Council's Panel of Experts on North Korea, which monitors implementation of sanctions on Pyongyang, also said the reclusive communist nation has continued to export ballistic-missile technology to the Middle East
and ship arms and materiel to Africa in violation of U.N. restrictions.
"Given the stated intentions of (North Korea), it continued efforts to enhance the scope of its nuclear and missile programs ... there are serious questions about the efficacy of the current United Nations sanctions
regime," the panel said in its latest confidential report, seen by Reuters on Tuesday.
North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 because of its multiple nuclear tests and missile launches. The United States
and China are negotiating on the outline of a new U.N. sanctions resolution that council diplomats hope will be adopted this month.
Western diplomats told Reuters that restricting North Korean access to international ports is among the measures Washington is pushing Beijing to accept in the wake of Pyongyang's Jan. 6 nuclear test and its latest rocket launch last weekend.
Washington also wants to tighten restrictions on North Korea banks' access to the international financial system, the diplomats said.
In addition to a U.N. arms embargo, Pyongyang is banned from importing and exporting nuclear and missile technology and is not allowed to import luxury goods.
"Despite its designation in July 2014, Ocean Maritime Management Company Limited (OMM) continues to operate through foreign-flagged vessels, name and company re-registrations and the rental of crews to foreign ships," the panel said.
"This enables them to obtain access to foreign ports in the region and beyond as well as maritime insurance, a prerequisite for operation," it said.
The report said OMM is controlled by North Korea's Ministry of Land and Marine Transport, both before and after its blacklisting by the Security Council.
Last year the panel reported on more than a dozen renamed vessels. In addition to the 14 vessels OMM had in operation last year, it has an additional vessel - the Hoe Ryong - in operation.
Nine of 15 vessels operated by OMM are currently in service in spite of OMM's blacklisting and 14 of them have been re-registered, the report said.
(By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Paul Simao)