UN experts warn Venezuela it could be in breach of North Korea sanctions, according to documents
NEW YORK, July 28 — UN investigators monitoring compliance with sanctions on North Korea are looking into a possible military and technology deal between Pyongyang and Venezuela and have warned Caracas that it could be in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
In two previously unreported letters to Venezuela’s UN ambassador, Samuel Moncada – sent in October and last month and seen by Reuters – the independent panel of UN experts asked for specific terms of the agreement and spelled out the UN sanctions that could bar such a deal.
The probe comes as US sanctions on the South American country – intended to force out President Nicolas Maduro over allegations he rigged his 2018 re-election – and increasing diplomatic isolation are pushing Venezuela to deepen ties with US adversaries like Iran and North Korea.
“Taking into consideration that such cooperation is a recognized way for the DPRK to violate relevant UN resolutions, the Panel would like to request a response … concerning information regarding above suspected cooperation,” panel coordinator Alastair Morgan wrote on June 12.
North Korea’s formal name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The country has been subject to UN sanctions since 2006. The sanctions have been strengthened by the 15-member UN Security Council over the years in a bid to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The UN panel of experts reports annually to the council on sanctions compliance.
In its latest annual report, on March 2, the panel said it had started probing a possible military and technological cooperation deal signed by Diosdado Cabello – who leads the ruling socialist party and a legislative body known as the National Constituent Assembly loyal to Maduro – during a September 2019 Pyongyang trip.
Reuters could not verify whether a military and technological deal between North Korea and Venezuela exists and the UN report and letters did not provide any details. In an Oct. 2, 2019 tweet, Maduro congratulated Cabello for the “tremendous agreements” signed during his recent Asian tour, which included stops in North Korea and Vietnam.
The investigators’ October letter to Moncada includes a news report about the Maduro tweet as an exhibit; it is unclear whether their probe has unearthed further evidence beyond that report.
During a conversation with Cabello on state television the night of the tweet, Maduro referenced military agreements but did not provide details or specify whether they were signed with North Korea or Vietnam.
“You were deployed with our brothers in North Korea and Vietnam, reaching great agreements for agricultural production, political formation, industrial production, commercial and energy exchange, for military support and cooperation,” Maduro said.
Venezuela’s information ministry, which responds to media inquiries on behalf of the government, and Moncada did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the UN investigation. North Korea’s UN mission in New York also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
During the televised conversation with Maduro, Cabello described North Korea in almost utopian terms, praising the cleanliness of its streets and stating he did not see “a single person with a bitter or sad face.”
“On the streets, children walk home singing happily, they stop at corners to listen to orchestras playing for them as they pass. And who’s in the orchestras? Children, as well,” Cabello said. But he also made reference to a “secret,” adding, “What I saw later I will tell you in person.”
Maduro replied: “All I can say is, tremendous agreement.” — Reuters