A Way Around Sanctions for North Korea?

By Scott Morgan

    In March 2016, the Namibian Government confirmed a report by the UN Panels of Experts regarding a Munitions Factory that has been constructed and operated by North Korea inside Namibia. The Official story is that these weapons and munitions are meant for the internal use of Namibian Security Forces.

    The report indicates that this facility - constructed in the area of the Capital Windhoek - went online back in 2005. However the Namibian Government stated that this is a new venture which is part of a series of infrastructure projects being undertaken by Mansudae Overseas Project Group. This group is linked to Korea Mining Development Corporation (Komid), which was placed on a US Sanctions List back in 2005 and expanded further when this revelation came to light.

Important Questions

    This revelation opens up a new series of questions:

  • Is the effort being taken by Pyongyang to circumvent the Sanctions regime that has been in place for some time? 
  • Is the DPRK reaching out to old allies again not only to reestablish ties but also to generate new sources of revenue? 
  • What should happen if the answer turns out to be a resounding yes?

    It appears that hypersensitivity to the Nuclear Weapons Program of North Korea has led to this effort being overlooked - not just in Namibia but in several other African States as well. Two Countries that have come under scrutiny from the UN are Uganda and Tanzania. They have been on the watchlist since the summer of 2015. It appears that this program is a projection of Soft Power - a concept described by the Secretary of State Clinton - and their own effort to get a slice of the pie as African States seek to improve their Defense Capabilities.

    In the eyes of many, North Korea played a crucial role during the Wars of Liberation in Africa during the 1960s and 70s. It sent troops to participate in the Angolan War, and it taught fighters for the African National Congress (ANC) tactics to be used against the Apartheid era Government in South Africa. It also played a role in the immediate post-independence era by training a unit of the Zimbabwean Army that was forced to disband after committing a series of Human Rights Abuses, in the Matabeleland Province, when the followers of Joshua Nkomo were crushed.

    The question now becomes: what action can be taken? How can countries which are allies of the United States be held accountable for these actions? Surely the old axiom that ‘Nations do not have allies but they have interests’ comes into play at this point. Having these countries listed by the UN with no accountability is a problem. The Traditional ally of North Korea - China - sits on the Security Council. Another erstwhile ally Russia also sits on that body so any attempt to hold Countries Accountable will most likelyl be vetoed by either one of them - or if they work in concert.


    Despite the efforts to rein in the North Koreans - regarding their Nuclear Weapons Program - focusing solely on that effort has removed focus from other Arms Deals and Projects that Pyongyang has managed to build and maintain by retaining old contacts from the Cold War.

(Image: North Korea & Namibia crossed flags - Google Images)
[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]


  1. Namibia always keeps relations with countries subject to sanctions, have you guys noticed? Maybe a Germany legacy?

  2. Hi Morgan,

    Let us see then: Namibia (a producer of uranium) that has links to Iran (a client for uranium) who used Namibia to circumvent sanctions too. Namibia allows North Korea to build a munitions factory in its territory, North Korea has a mining project in Namibia; North Korea assists Iran in its Nuclear Programme through its own.
    I'd say the US and others should start going after the countries that help rogue states. The AU would probably try to block any attempt to sanction Namibia, as they have this stance of "you come after one African country you come after all of us" but there has to be a way. As for China and Russia, a serious conversation must be held with these two.

    Excellent post, Morgan. Thanks,

  3. Scott, great article! Those following North Korea should totally read this piece. Sharing!


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