North Korea Violated U.N. Sanctions To Earn $200 Million from Prohibited Exports, Report Finds

This December 1, 2017, picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on December 2, 2017, shows North Korean soldiers and Pyongyang residents holding a rally to celebrate the North's declaration on November 29 it had achieved full nuclear statehood. AFP/Getty Images

The rogue nation infringed U.N. sanctions to rake in almost $200 million from banned commodity exports last year.

According to a confidential report obtained by Reuters on Friday, a group of independent U.N. monitors found that Pyongyang had been providing weapons to Syria and Myanmar. The document, submitted to a U.N. Security Council sanctions committee, revealed that North Korea had exported coals to ports "including in Russia, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam," using forged paperwork that showed Russia and China—as well as other countries—as the origin of coal, instead of North Korea.

"The DPRK (North Korea) is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system," Reuters cited the 213-page report.

The monitors revealed over 40 unreported North Korean exports between 2012 and 2017 to Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Centre, "which oversees the country's chemical weapons program," as Reuters reported. The U.N. monitors underscored that the investigation has demonstrated "further evidence of arms embargo and other violations, including through the transfer of items with utility in ballistic missile and chemical weapons programs."

Despite a 2016 U.N. Security Council resolution that capped coal exports and demanded countries report any imports of North Korean coal since August 5, the U.N. monitors inspected 23 coal shipments to ports in China, Russia, China, South Korea and Vietnam after that date. The coal cargo "would constitute a violation of the resolution, if confirmed," the monitors stated.

The same monitors added that multinational oil companies, which remained nameless in the report, were also subject to investigation for their participation in the supply chain of petroleum products moved to North Korea, Reuters reported.

North Korea has received similar economic sanctions. In September, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed restrictions on eight North Korean banks and 26 people operating in four countries, in an attempt to weaken the Kim Jong Un regime. This sanction came after President Donald Trump signed an executive order in September that sought to isolate North Korea from the international banking system while adding more pressure on its main industry and shipping, The New York Times reported.

This is not the first time Pyongyang has circumvented authorities to carry out commerce with other countries. In 2013, Panamanian forces confiscated a North Korea-flagged ship after undeclared Cuban weapons and fighter jets from the Soviet era were found under sacks of sugar. The Panama Canal Authority said at the time that the ship could leave after Pyongyang paid a $700,000 fine.

North Korea's economy has been heavily reliant on Beijing—$2.3 million of the $2.83 billion total exports were shipped to China in 2015. The largest imports ranged from oil to high tech products such as computers and video displays, while Pyongyang's largest exports were textiles and coal. China, however, has agreed to cut off coal imports.