A UNITED Nations (UN) team tasked with tightening screws on North Korea’s authoritarian regime has written to the Zimbabwean government requesting information on the country’s dealings with the rogue state. This comes as it emerged that Harare could be violating United Nations resolutions restricting trade with the South-East belligerent Asian country.
By Wongai Zhangazha
The UN has threatened an asset freeze on local companies dealing with a Pyongyang firm involved in construction and sculpture.
A report dated September 5 2017 reveals that a United Nations Panel of Experts wrote to government officials demanding to know the operations of North Korea’s Mansudae Overseas Project (MOP).
MOP is a construction company based in Jongphyong-dong, Phyongchon District, Pyongyang, North Korea.
It is the international commercial division of the Mansudae Art Studio.
The company was involved in the construction of the country’s National Heroes Acre, including the statue of the Unknown Soldier. MOP also made the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s statue.
If investigations by the UN establish that Zimbabwe continues to assist or is doing business with North Korea, the country or local companies dealing with the eastern Asian country run the risk of having their assets frozen.
Last month the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) imposed the “most stringent” sanctions on North Korea that banned exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood in response to Pyongyang’s testing of two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July that could target the United States.
The 15-member UN Security Council agreed to cut North Korean exports by about US$1 billion a year.
The sanctions regime also banned “the opening of new joint ventures or cooperative entities with” North Korea, and capped the number of North Koreans working in other countries at current levels.
Another penalty prevented existing joint ventures into expanding their operations.
In its mid-term report, the UN panel of experts said it noted with concern North Korea’s denial of the legitimacy of Security Council resolutions, saying the resolutions have “no legal basis at all”.
“The Panel continued its investigations into violations of the arms embargo and activities of entities and individuals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) designated by the United Nations for trade in conventional arms and ballistic missile-related items, particularly in Africa and the Middle East,” the report says.
“The Panel continued its investigations into the activities of the Mansudae Overseas Project Group and its relationship to the United Nations-designated entity KOMID, which the Panel has recommended for designation.
“With regard to Mansudae activities in a number of African Member States including Angola, Benin, Botswana, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe, the Panel has written to these countries requesting information on the entity’s activities including the provision of statues.”
The panel said evasive practices of North Korea significantly increase the challenges associated with implementing United Nations financial sanctions.
North Korea is widely regarded as a rogue and authoritarian state and is under UN sanctions. Several countries, however, enjoy trade and bilateral relations with the country.
DPRK has been providing military assistance and hardware to some countries despite UN Resolution 1718 of 2006, which cemented into international law the condemnation of Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes.
The resolution barred UN member states from dealing with North Korea with respect to major weapons systems, missiles, and nuclear and other related activities and goods.
Subsequent resolutions notably 1874 of 2009, 2087 of 2013, 2094 of 2013 and 2270 of 2016 tightened the sanctions by barring trade in all arms. UN member states are forbidden from receiving police, paramilitary or special forces training from North Korea.
The awarding of the tender to construct Nkomo’s statue to a North Korean company stirred an uproar, as the Asian country trained the Fifth Brigade crack unit, which killed thousands of people in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces during the Gukurahundi era.
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe estimates that over 20 000 civilians werekilled during the atrocities.
During Nkomo’s burial at the National Heroes Acre in 1999, Mugabe described the Gukurahundi period as a “moment of madness”.