Preventing North Korean Proliferation Activities

The United Nations has sanctioned North Korea for its proliferation activities, but those activities continue

International sanctions regimes against North Korea primarily target the country's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programs. North Korea continues to advance those programs with both the willful and inadvertent support of foreign persons and entities.

The United Nations (UN) has raised concerns about the widespread presence of North Korean nationals in Africa and their involvement in prohibited activities. North Korea engages in proliferation related activities in 38 of 54 African countries. Those activities include revenue generating activities, restricted and dual-use technology procurement, covert transportation of goods (smuggling) and covert financing of transactions (money laundering). North Korean arms sales into Africa are destabilizing close to 15% of the continent, mostly in the Sahel. North Korea proliferates weapons to thirteen African countries. Most of Africa is also within range of missiles proliferated into the neighboring Middle East by North Korea.

The European Union and United States recognize and implement all sanctions adopted by the UN, which are to be implemented and enforced globally by all UN member states. The EU and United States have also adopted autonomous sanctions, export controls, and other restrictive measures and penalties for additional persons, entities, and activities linked to North Korean proliferation to tighten control and oversight within their respective jurisdictions and to advance their own national security interests.

RAND Research on Sanctions and Evasion

RAND's National Security Research Division assisted the U.S. Department of State in producing guides, other supporting materials that explain why North Korean proliferation activities matter, and steps that can be taken to mitigate those activities. The team focused on:

  • Sanctions imposed on North Korea by the international community in response to its activities
  • North Korean sanctions evasion techniques
  • Strategic Trade Controls that can be introduced in order to limit such activities in the future.

The project's first two reports are available for download now. A third report on strategic trade controls is forthcoming.

Final Reports

  • People walk in front of a monitor showing news of North Korea's fresh threat in Tokyo, Japan, August 10, 2017, photo by Toru Hanai/Reuters

    North Korea Sanctions: Countering DPRK Proliferation Activities

    International sanctions regimes targeting Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) could contribute toward limiting the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Governments can play a critical role in countering DPRK by using knowledge of sanctions regimes to ensure compliance.

  • The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a mausoleum in Pyongyang, North Korea, photo by narvikk/iStock

    How Does North Korea Evade Sanctions?

    The United Nations has imposed increasingly restrictive sanctions on North Korea after each of the six nuclear weapons tests that it conducted between 2009 and 2016. Enforcement has been mixed, and North Korea has become adept at several techniques to evade sanctions.