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A mysterious online weapons vendor called Glocom — jokingly dubbed the “Samsung of North Korean proliferators” by some Western investigators — began posting slick videos hawking a variety of wares ranging from military radios to guidance systems for drones, never mentioning North Korea as the source.
The sanctions stigma inevitably scared away some potential buyers, but the trading in the shadows remains brisk, intelligence officials and Western diplomats say.
Ships that ferried artillery rockets and tank parts to distant ports changed their names and registry papers so they could sail under a foreign flag.
New front companies sprang up in China and Malaysia to handle transactions free of any visible connection to Pyongyang.
Some remaining clients are fellow pariah states such as Syria, whose recent purchases have included chemical-weapons protective gear.
Other long-term customers are nonstate actors such as the militant group Hezbollah, which has acquired North Korean rockets and missiles from arms smugglers and sympathetic regimes.
North Korean-made rifles have even been recovered from the bodies of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, although U. officials believe the guns were probably looted from stocks sold to the late Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi years earlier.
Still other customers look to North Korea as one of the last suppliers of low-cost parts and ammunition for older weapons systems that are scarcely found in commercial markets. aid recipient that still maintains diplomatic ties and has a history of military-to-military ties dating back to the 1970s with Pyongyang, said Berger, the Middlebury researcher.It was, as a United Nations report later concluded, the “largest seizure of ammunition in the history of sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” But who were the rockets for? investigation uncovered a complex arrangement in which Egyptian business executives ordered millions of dollars worth of North Korean rockets for the country’s military while also taking pains to keep the transaction hidden, according to U. officials and Western diplomats familiar with the findings. Whether North Korea was ever paid for the estimated million rocket shipment is unclear.The Jie Shun’s final secret would take months to resolve and would yield perhaps the biggest surprise of all: The buyers were the Egyptians themselves. The incident, many details of which were never publicly revealed, prompted the latest in a series of intense, if private, U. complaints over Egyptian efforts to obtain banned military hardware from Pyongyang, the officials said. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss U. But the episode illustrates one of the key challenges faced by world leaders in seeking to change North Korea’s behavior through economic pressure. [How has North Korea managed to make rapid gains in its missile program?Using a “flag of convenience,” as the tactic is called, allows North Korean ships to avoid drawing unwanted attention in international waters. “The vessel’s automatic identification system was off for the majority of the voyage,” the report said, “except in busy sea lanes where such behavior could be noticed and assessed as a safety threat.” Still, a 300-foot-long freighter big enough to hold 2,400 passenger cars is not easily concealed. The vessel was heading northward through the Red Sea in early August when the warning was passed to Egyptian authorities about a suspicious North Korean vessel that appeared bound for the Suez Canal. “I give their foreign ministry credit for taking it seriously.” The Jie Shun had not yet reached the canal when an Egyptian naval vessel ordered the crew to halt for an inspection.So does the practice of routinely shutting off a vessel’s transponder, behavior documented in a February U. “They were notified by our side,” said a former senior U. At first, the cargo hold appeared to match the description on the manifest: 2,300 tons of loose yellow rocks called limonite, a kind of iron ore.North Korea has started to innovate and move beyond those designs, but it is still willing to provide spare parts and maintenance.