…As North Korea is trying to protect nuclear, missile capabilities: UN report***
Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners have transferred America-made weapons to Al Qaeda-linked fighters, Salafi militias and other factions waging war in Yemen, in violation of their agreements with the US, according to a report by CNN.
The weapons have also made their way into the hands of Iranian-backed rebels battling the coalition for control of Yemen, exposing some of America`s sensitive military technology to Tehran and potentially endangering the lives of US troops in other conflict zones, the report based on an investigation said on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), its main partner in the war, have used the US-manufactured weapons as a form of currency to buy the loyalties of militias or tribes, bolster chosen armed actors, and influence the complex political landscape, according to local commanders on the ground and analysts.
By handing off this military equipment to third parties, the Saudi-led coalition is breaking the terms of its arms sales with the US, according to the Department of Defence.
In response to the report, a US defence official confirmed that there was an ongoing investigation into the issue.
Previous investigations had established that US-made weapons were used in a series of deadly Saudi coalition attacks that killed dozens of civilians, many of them children.
The Abu Abbas brigade, a militia group linked to the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), possesses US-made Oshkosh armoured vehicles, which they had paraded in a 2015 show of force through the city.
Abu Abbas, the founder, was declared a terrorist by the US in 2017, but the group still enjoys support from the Saudi coalition and was absorbed into the coalition-supported 35th Brigade of the Yemeni Army.
In 2015, Riyadh launched the coalition to oust Iranian-supported Houthi rebels from Yemen`s capital city of Sanaa and reinstate the internationally recognised government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.
The war split the country in two, and with it came the weapons — guns, anti-tank missiles, armoured vehicles, heat-seeking lasers and artillery, report said.
Since then, some of America`s military equipment has been passed on, sold, stolen or abandoned in Yemen.
Arms markets are illegal in Yemen, but they still operate openly in the mountainous city of Hodeidah located in the country`s southwest.
To one side hang veils, abayas and colourful dresses for sale; to the other are pistols, hand grenades, and US assault rifles available on special order, according to the report.
The US is by far the biggest supplier of arms to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and its support is crucial to the Saudi-led coalition`s continuing war in Yemen.
US lawmakers are trying to pass a resolution ending the Trump administration`s support for the coalition.
In the meantime, North Korea`s nuclear and ballistic missile programs remain intact and the country is working to make sure those capabilities cannot be destroyed by any military strikes, according to a confidential report by UN sanctions monitors.
The report to a 15-member UN Security Council sanctions committee, seen by Reuters on Monday, comes ahead of a second planned summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un later this month. They initially met in June 2018 and Kim pledged to work towards denuclearization.
While Trump has hailed “tremendous progress” in his dealings with North Korea, the UN report found that Pyongyang “is using civilian facilities, including airports, for ballistic missile assembly and testing with the goal of effectively preventing `decapitation` strikes” on a smaller number of identified nuclear and missile assembly and manufacturing sites.”
The report said it “found evidence of a consistent trend on the part of the DPRK to disperse its assembly, storage and testing locations,” using the abbreviation for North Korea`s official name, the Democratic People`s Republic of Korea.
The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the 317-page UN report, which was submitted to Security Council members on Friday.
The UN Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke funding for Pyongyang`s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.
“The country continues to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal,” the sanctions monitors found. “These violations render the latest UN sanctions ineffective.”
The monitors said they had evidence of one unprecedented prohibited petroleum product transfer of more than 57,600 barrels, worth more than $5.7 million.
They said the case highlighted “new sanctions evasion techniques that defeated the due diligence efforts of the region`s leading commodity trader, as well as the U.S. and Singaporean banks that facilitated the fuel payments and a leading UK insurer that provided protection and indemnity cover to one of the vessels involved.”
The report accused North Korea of also violating a UN arms embargo and attempting “to sell a wide range of military equipment to armed groups and governments in the Middle East and Africa,” as well as small arms and light weapons to Libya, Sudan and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The UN monitors also noted “a trend in the DPRK`s evasion of financial sanctions using cyber-attacks to illegally force the transfer of funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges.”
North Korea is subject to a ban on luxury goods and the monitors said they are investigating the public appearance of a relatively new Rolls-Royce Phantom limousine in Pyongyang on Oct. 7 last year, which usually sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Russia and China suggested the Security Council discuss easing sanctions after Trump and Kim met for the first time. But the United States and other council members have said there must be strict enforcement of sanctions until Pyongyang acts.