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Evidence shows N.K. firm operates in China, Russia in violation of U.N. sanctions

2014/11/19 05:46

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) -- A major North Korean machine manufacturing company has evaded U.N. sanctions and maintained operations in China and Russia until recently, U.S. experts said Tuesday, calling for more stringent enforcement of sanctions on the communist regime.

The North's Korea Ryonha Machinery Joint Venture Corporation, Pyongyang's main producer of CNC machine tools, was sanctioned by the United Nations in January 2013 for involvement in providing support for the North's nuclear and ballistic missile-related programs.

But the company was found to have apparently continued to operate in China and Russia through entities such as Suzhou Weihan CNC Technology and Millim Technology Co. in China and Koryo Technologies or KORTEC in Russia, according to Jeffrey Lewis and Catherine Dill, U.S. experts at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

For example, Suzhou's website has the exactly same photograph of a Ryonha-manufactured CNC machine tool found on a North Korean website. The website also had a factory picture of Ryonha with the North's official news agency, KCNA, logo on it.

In addition, Suzhou's website also has a phone number of the sales office of Millim Technology Co., while the website of Russia's KORTEC had a series of images showing machine tools manufactured by Ryonha as well as its factory images.

"There is a well-known sanctioned entity called Ryonha that releases pictures of its factory inside and out and pictures of its machine tools and those machine tools continued to be marketed openly in Russia and China by companies that do little more than simply change the name of the business," Lewis said.

"I think it is incumbent on Russia and China to do a lot more to find these companies and work closely with the U.N. panel of experts because again, the sanctions regime is simply not going to work if it is enforced so carelessly," he said in a video conference with reporters.

Lewis and Dill said that simple Internet searches turned up these results.

Their report was released via 38 North, a website specializing in political and security issues involving North Korea. The website is run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

Joseph DeTomas, a former principal deputy assistant secretary of state handling nonproliferation, said that it is necessary for people outside of governments to do such an open-source research to uncover violations to ensure they don't have an "easy safe haven."

   Joel Wit, editor of 38 North, said that the finding is a good reminder of how difficult it is to impose sanctions on a country like North Korea and it also shows that these companies are "hiding in plain sight."

   "I think this is a really good testimony to the problems that we are encountering with our sanctions," he said.