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N. Korea continues nuclear, missile programs: UN report

NEW YORK (Kyodo) -- North Korea has continued with its nuclear programs in breach of U.N. bans, according to a U.N. experts' report seen by Kyodo News on Friday, despite ongoing talks with the United States on its denuclearization.

The confidential report to a U.N. Security Council sanctions committee also said that Pyongyang continues to defy global sanctions through a "massive increase" in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products.

It also referred to North Korea's attempt to secretly supply small arms and light weapons as well as other military equipment in Yemen, Libya and Sudan.

The report came as negotiations between the United States and North Korea for ridding Pyongyang of nuclear weapons have made little headway since the two countries' first-ever summit in June.

"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs and continues to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, as well as through transfers of coal at sea during 2018," the report said, referring to the country by its formal name.

"These violations render the latest U.N. sanctions ineffective by flouting the caps on the DPRK's import of petroleum products and crude oil as well as the coal ban imposed in 2017 by the Security Council in response to the DPRK's unprecedented nuclear and ballistic missiles testing," it said.

On the nuclear program, the report said North Korea's main nuclear complex in Yongbyon in the northwest "remained active" and that the 5-megawatt reactor "continues to be in operation," a sign that the country may be resuming the production of weapons-grade plutonium.

It pointed to satellite imagery indicating excavation and construction of buildings in the complex, as well as a U.N. member state's observation of water discharge through the newly built structure.

As for the ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, the report said "increasingly sophisticated evasion techniques" have been used, including the manipulation of automatic tracking systems used on vessels, ship identity fraud, night transfers, and use of additional vessels for transshipment.

The report also said that in the course of investigating possible violations of arms embargo sanctions, the panel of experts confirmed the existence of a North Korean "Ministry of Military Equipment," linked to one of the country's most important designated entities -- Green Pine Associated Corporation.

At the June 12 summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un committed to "complete" denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

But bilateral negotiations on the specifics have apparently reached an impasse, raising skepticism about whether Pyongyang will really implement concrete measures toward denuclearization.

On Friday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reiterated Washington's determination to keep sanctions in place "until we have achieved the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea" as he announced a fresh batch of U.S. punitive measures.

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