By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - After more than a month's delay due to Chinese objections, the United Nations on Friday published a report on North Korea that says a panel of independent experts is investigating reports of possible North Korean arms deals with Syria and Myanmar.
The 74-page report, which was seen by Reuters last month, says North Korea "continues actively to defy the measures in the (U.N. sanctions) resolutions." The so-called Panel of Experts submitted the report to the U.N. Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee last month.
U.N. panel of experts' sanctions reports are highly sensitive. China, which is named in the report as a transit hub for illicit North Korean arms-related breaches, has prevented the 15-nation Security Council from publishing past reports, U.N. envoys have told Reuters.
Last year's report has never been published, although Reuters saw and reported on it at the time.
"The Chinese finally agreed to let the report reach the public," a council diplomat told Reuters. "We're pleased that people will be able to study and analyze it."
The report says that Pyongyang continues to defy the U.N. sanctions, though the panel received no new reports of "violations involving transfer of nuclear, other (weapons of mass-destruction)-related or ballistic missile items."
"Although the (sanctions) have not caused the DPRK (North Korea) to halt its banned activities, they appear to have slowed them and made illicit transactions significantly more difficult and expensive," the panel's report said.
One of the cases involving suspected illicit arms trade with Syria was reported to the council's sanctions committee earlier this year.
Another case cited in the report involved a 2007 shipment of propellant usable for SCUD missiles and other items that could be used for ballistic missiles. The panel had referred to it in last year's report but added details about a Syria connection and confirmed that it had been transported via China.
The panel also said it was looking at the possibility North Korea has a deal with Myanmar on conventional weapons cooperation in violation of Security Council sanctions passed in 2006 and 2009 after Pyongyang's nuclear test in those years. Those sanctions include a ban on North Korean arms exports.
Ten thousand rolls of tobacco, 12 bottles of Sake, and some second-hand Mercedes Benz cars are among the latest breaches by North Korea of the luxury goods ban described in the report.
A similar panel of experts report on Iran has yet to be made public, though diplomats said they expect it will be soon.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Jackie Frank)