The United States has proposed “black listing” ten more commercial ships for aiding in North Korean efforts to circumvent sanctions imposed on Kim Jong Un’s regime over their nuclear and ballistic missile weapons programs. According to the United States’ submission to the UN Security Council, the vessels have participated in ship-to-ship transfers in the open ocean, where banned North Korean goods are transferred onto them from North Korean flagged ships to be sold in foreign ports.
The Xin Sheng Hai (flag unknown); the Hong-Kong-flagged Lighthouse Winmore; the Togo-flagged Yu Yuan; Panama-flagged Glory Hope 1 (also known as Orient Shenyu), Kai Xiang, and Billions No. 18; and the North Korean-flagged Ul Ji Bong 6, Rung Ra 2, Rye Song Gang 1, and Sam Jong 2 are the vessels American diplomats hope to have banned from all commercial ports, citing their violations of the UN imposed sanctions.
North Korean exports have been strictly curtailed by sanctions imposed by both the United States and the United Nations respectively. Shipments of coal, textiles, seafood, iron and other minerals out of North Korea have been barred from commercial ports the world over, and imports of oil into North Korea have been limited to 2 million barrels per year. These sanctions aim to strangle funding from Kim Jong Un’s rapidly advancing, and internationally banned, weapons programs, such as their recently tested Hwasong-15 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, and the detonation of the nation’s first hydrogen bomb in September.
North Korea’s efforts to secure new avenues of revenue to fund their ongoing nuclear programs led them to unleashing a computer worm on the world commonly referred to as the “WannaCry” attack this past May, according to U.S. and a host of other nations. The cyber attack locked access to Windows-based computers unless the users paid a ransom to the attack’s originator, and although damage from the attack was limited within the United States, it caused widespread issues in allied nations like England. It is now believed that the attack, and ensuing ransom payouts, netted the North Korean government millions in revenue.
Despite the effort to strangle Kim Jong Un’s finances, it would seem the nation’s Supreme Leader has been willing to continue to funnel the government’s limited funds into their banned weapons program, even at the cost of his people’s well-being and defensive necessities like rations for border security stationed at the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas since their war ended in armistice decades ago. North Korean fishing boats have been washing up on Japanese shores with increasing frequency, as desperate fishermen venture further into dangerous waters in wooden boats as small as six feet long in search of plentiful bounties. A North Korean soldier that defected across the border into South Korea was shot by Kim’s troops at least five times during his attempt, and as South Korean doctors worked to save his life, they found the soldier to be near-starved and riddled with parasitic worms, some measuring as much as 11 inches in length.
Despite what would appear to be increasingly desperate circumstances for the people of North Korea, Kim’s oversaw the launch of the nation’s most advanced ballistic missile to date late last month. The platform, called the Hwasong-15, boasted a reported 53 minute flight time and maximum altitude of approximately 2,800 miles, giving it an estimated range of more than 8,100 miles – placing cities on America’s eastern seaboard within striking distance. Recent reports indicate North Korea may now be working to arm their missile platforms with chemical and biological weapons, rather than only relying on nuclear assets. This may be because of the enormous cost and effort involved in developing a nuclear warhead, as well as Kim’s reportedly massive chemical and biological stockpiles.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press