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[How Russia quietly undercuts sanctions intended to stop North Korea’s nuclear program] By the end of the Cold War, North Korea’s customer base spanned four continents and included dozens of countries, as well as armed insurgencies.The demand for discount North Korean weapons would continue long after the Soviet Union collapsed, and even after North Korea came under international censure and economic isolation because of its nuclear weapons program, said Andrea Berger, a North Korea specialist and senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif.“These cover materials not only act to obfuscate shipments, but really highlights the way that licit North Korean businesses are being used to facilitate North Korean illicit activity,” said David Thompson, a senior analyst and investigator of North Korean financial schemes for the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington.“It is this nesting which makes this illicit activity so hard to identify.” With North Korea’s other profitable enterprises being hurt by international sanctions, Thompson said, such exports are now “likely more important than ever.” Even by North Korean standards, the Jie Shun was a veritable rust bucket. The desalination system had stopped working, judging from crates of water bottles officials would find strewn around the crew compartments.Some remaining clients are fellow pariah states such as Syria, whose recent purchases have included chemical-weapons protective gear.

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The Jie Shun’s final secret would take months to resolve and would yield perhaps the biggest surprise of all: The buyers were the Egyptians themselves. The incident, many details of which were never publicly revealed, prompted the latest in a series of intense, if private, U. complaints over Egyptian efforts to obtain banned military hardware from Pyongyang, the officials said. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss U. But the episode illustrates one of the key challenges faced by world leaders in seeking to change North Korea’s behavior through economic pressure. [How has North Korea managed to make rapid gains in its missile program?The freighter’s steel frame was corroded from bow to stern, and its fixtures caked with coal dust from previous voyages, U. Whether its weapons were discovered or not, the ship’s 8,000-mile voyage last summer was probably destined to be its last. “This was a one-shot voyage, and the boat was probably intended for the scrap yard afterward.” [Photos of the Jie Shun show how rocket-propelled grenades were concealed under iron ore] Seaworthy or not, the ship set sail from the port city of Haeju, North Korea, on July 23, 2016, with a 23-member North Korean crew that included a captain and a political officer to ensure Communist Party discipline on board.“The ship was in terrible shape,” said a Western diplomat familiar with confidential reports from the official U. Although North Korean-owned, the vessel had been registered in Cambodia, allowing it to fly a Cambodian flag and claim Phnom Penh as its home port. intelligence agencies tracked the ship as it left North Korea, and then monitored it as it steamed around the Malay Peninsula and sailed westward across the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.North Korea has been selling small arms around the world to bring in the hard currency it needs to survive.(Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) Over time, the small-arms trade has emerged as a reliable source of cash for a regime with considerable expertise in the tactics of running contraband, including the use of “false flag” shipping and the clever concealment of illegal cargo in bulk shipments of legitimate goods such as sugar or — as in the case of the Jie Shun — a giant mound of loose iron ore.

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