Yesterday Senator Cory Gardner introduced S.2144, entitled the “North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act.” (The official text of the proposed bill is not yet available at congress.gov but a discussion draft can be found here.)
Not surprisingly, the new bill seems mostly to be a feel-good exercise or a little Congressional chest-beating after not being able to sink the Iran deal. Whether or not this bill has a chance of passage is difficult to predict.
The bill would do the following:
designate North Korea as a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern;
instruct the President to come up with a plan to make U.N. members enforce U.N. sanctions against Korea;
require export licenses under section 6(j) of the (expired) Export Administration ACt for goods that contribute to North Korea’s military or terrorism capabilities;
enact an arms embargo against North Korea;
withhold foreign assistance from countries that supply lethal military equipment to North Korea;
prohibit federal procurement from persons engaging in certain activities with North Korea, such as exporting luxury goods;
increase customs inspections of goods transported through foreign ports that do not engage in adequate inspection activities to prevent exports of certain goods to North Korea; and
require the State Department to issue enhanced travel warnings regarding travel to North Korea.
Some of these provisions certainly seem unnecessary. Licenses are already required for all exports to North Korea other than food and medicine designated EAR99, and North Korea is already designated under section 6(j) as a country supporting international terrorism. Further, there is already an arms embargo in place against North Korea. I suppose these provisions might limit the ability of the White House to lift these sanctions but, frankly, it seems unlikely that this White House, or any White House in the foreseeable future is likely to start selling arms to the Norks or drop licensing requirements for other exports to them.
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Avid readers of this blog will be familiar with the saga of the euphoniously named Nork vessel, the Chong Chon Gang, which was seized by the Panamanians in the Panama Canal while the vessel was attempting to carry a boatload, so to speak, of Cuban arms to North Korea. Although the Cubans claimed, ahem, that this was not a “transfer” of the arms to North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions because they retained title to the goods, they were unable to explain why, if that were the case, they buried the missiles and other armaments under enough sugar to keep the chubby Nork dictator in sweets for the next millennium or so. The attempted suicide by the ship’s captain once the Panamanians found the buried missile parts and systems also did not do much to bolster the Cuban argument that this shipment was perfectly legal.
The U.N. Panel of Experts convened to consider the legality of the shipment brushed aside Cuba’s arguments and back in March found the shipment to be a violation of U.N. sanctions on North Korea. At the end of last month, the United States joined the party and announced a variety of additions to the SDN list arising out of the Canal incident. The two North Korean companies involved in the shipment as well as the Chong Chon Gang were designated, as were 17 other Nork ships in which the two shipping companies had an interest.
In the “Some People Are Never Satisfied” category, a blogger at Capitol Hill Cubans called the Nork sanctions “enforcement malpractice” and moaned that there were no sanctions imposed on the Cuban officials involved in the Nork shipments. A Miami Heraldarticle provided a succinct answer to this complaint
A knowledgeable Washington official noted that perhaps Treasury did not feel it was necessary to sanction Cuban government entities and individuals because they already are under strong sanctions from the U.S. trade embargo.
Good point. Given that virtually all dealings by U.S. persons and companies with Cuban officials are prohibited under the current sanctions, what exactly did the blogger contemplate as additional sanctions here? Military intervention?
There has been a ton of publicity regarding Dennis Rodman’s preposterous Happy Birthday Mr. Dictator tour on which Rodman visited North Korea’s paunchy dictator Kim Jong-Un to wish him many happy returns and many more years of human rights violations. Of course, no dictator’s birthday celebration would be complete without bottles of vodka and other gifts of tribute from has-been basketball stars.
The U.N. Panel report, which we previously reported here, included Rodman’s swag bags for Kim Jong-Un as violations of U.N. sanctions on North Korea, singling out bottles of vodka, Irish whisky, crystal decanters and glassware and a Mulberry handbag. The Panel made clear that these all fell within the sanction’s definition of luxury goods which covers spirits, high-quality lead crystal glassware and high-quality handbags. Of course, notwithstanding the sanctions, I’d like to see a picture of Kim Jong-Un sporting the Mulberry handbag.
But the U.N. Panel also took the opportunity to swat the United States on the matter, noting that the United States had not reported these gifts to the panel. Paragraph 26 of Security Council Resolution 2094 requires member states to report evidence that the states have of non-compliance with the U.N. sanctions on North Korea. The United States was mum on the Rodman gifts, just as the United Kingdom did not report the sale of a Princess luxury yacht manufactured in Plymouth, England, to the Nork dictator.
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It must have been a slow news day on Tuesday for the New York Daily News, because the aging tabloid decided to try its hand at export humor. As you might imagine, things did not go well for the paper.
The attempt occurred in a feature called “Your Cheat Sheet,” which appears in a blog called “The Swamp” and looks at important events in DC. You know, so-and-so is testifying on the Hill, Prime Minister Muckety-Muck of Lower Lithovakia meets with USDA officials, etc. With that in mind, we present the joke in full:
Breaking News, so let’s parachute Anderson Cooper into: the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security holds a meeting of the Materials Processing Equipment Technical Advisory Committee to “discuss technical questions that affect the level of export controls applicable to materials processing equipment and related technology.”
[Insert sad trombone sound here.]
Okay, so see the Daily News writer thought it was just hilarious that somebody would meet about “materials processing equipment and related technology.” That’s like a meeting, you know, on polynomial equations or plasma actuators or other silly egghead stuff for nerdy bureaucrats. Losers!!! Bring in that Anderson Cooper fellow to cover this really groundbreaking story, etc., etc.
One person who doesn’t think exports controls on “materials processing equipment and related technology” is a laughing matter is the Nork Dictator Kim-Jong Un. The UN Panel Report discussed in yesterday’s post noted that a key obstacle to Nork nuclear ambitions, and a key incentive for the country’s efforts to evade international sanctions, is that “it lacks sufficient domestic precision machine tool manufacturing capability” needed for building missiles and uranium enrichment facilities. That’s the equipment that’s in — yep, you got it — Category 2 of the Commerce Control List which covers “materials processing equipment and technology.”
The morale of this story is, of course, that export control humor should be left to the professionals.
This blog has reported twice (here and here) on the seizure by the Panamanians of the Nork vessel, the Chong Chon Gang, by Panamanians after they discovered a boatload (so to speak) of Cuban weapons on the vessel headed for North Korea. Among the more telling aspects of the story is that the weapons were hidden under mountains of sugar and that the ship’s captain attempted suicide during the course of the search. Notwithstanding this, both the Cubans and the Norks steadfastly maintained that there was nothing to see here, that everything was on the up and up, and that everyone should just move on.
Well, the United Nations Panel of Experts convened to investigate compliance with U.N. sanctions against North Korea has decided that there was indeed plenty to see here. Its just-issued report highlights the Chong Chon Gang incident (as well as other Nork shenanigans) as evidence of persistent efforts by North Korea to evade U.N. Sanctions. Here are some interesting highlights used by the report to bolster its conclusion that the Chong Chon Gang shipment violated U.N. sanctions on the prohibition of shipments of arms and materiel by member states such as Cuba to North Korea.
The panel rejected Cuba’s risible, if not hilarious, argument that the sanction prohibiting “transfer” of arms and materiel to North Korea was not violated because Cuba retained ownership of the arms being shipped to North Korea for overhaul and maintenance. The Panel correctly pointed out that such a distinction would allow countries to lease weapons to North Korea, an absurd result inconsistent with the purpose of the sanctions.
More importantly, the panel rejected the argument by pointing to the evidence of elaborate attempts by Cuba and North Korea to conceal the nature of the shipment. This argument might be summarized as “If you don’t have anything to hide, why are you so busy trying to hide it?” Among the evasive tactics cited by the Panel (above and beyond burying the stuff under a mountain of sugar) were the following:
After discharging its cargo in Havana, the ship drifted for 10 days in the sea north of Cuba before sailing to Mariel where it took on the weapons cargo.
Although documents were found on the ship identifying the consignor and consignee of the sugar shipment, no such documents were found with respect to the concealed weapons.
The ship’s route and position were concealed by switching off the ship’s automatic identification system.
False documents were submitted to the Panama Canal Authority which omitted Mariel, where the weapons were loaded, from the list of prior ports visited.
The vessel ignored the standard practice of loading dangerous cargo, which included ammunition, rockets and explosives, at the top of the ship, loading it instead deep in the hold where it could be concealed by the sugar cargo. The weight of the sugar could have contributed to a catastrophic explosion, endangering the ship, its crew and nearby ships and their crew. Clearly concealment was a higher priority than safety.
There’s more in the Panel Report, including a detour involving Dennis Rodman’s Happy Birthday, Mr. Dictator celebrity tour, so stay tuned for future posts on Nork sanction evasion techniques.