Drug Trafficking and North Korea: Issues for U.S. Policy
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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At least 50 documented incidents in more than 20 countries around the world, many involving arrest or detention of North Korean diplomats, link North Korea to drug trafficking. Such events, in the context of credible, but unproven, allegations of large-scale state sponsorship of drug production and trafficking, raise important issues for the United States and its allies in combating international drug trafficking. The challenge to policy makers is how to pursue an effective counter drug policy and comply with U.S. law which may require cutting off aid to North Korea while pursuing other high-priority U.S. foreign policy objectives, including limiting possession and production of weapons of mass destruction limiting ballistic missile production and export curbing terrorism, counterfeiting, and international crime and addressing humanitarian needs. Reports that the Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea DPRK may be limiting some of its food crop production in favor of drug crop production are particularly disturbing given the countrys chronic food shortages. Another issue of rising concern is the degree to which profits from any North Korean drug trafficking, counterfeiting, and other crime-for-profit enterprises may be used to underwrite the costs of maintaining or expanding North Korean nuclear and missile programs. As the DPRKs drug trade becomes increasingly entrenched, and arguably decentralized, analysts question whether the Pyongyang regime would have the ability to effectively restrain such activity, should it so desire. Since 2003, overall seizures of North Korean-linked methamphetamine and heroin are generally down. Some suggest that this decline in seizures being identified as DPRK in origin is because North Korean source methamphetamine is now regularly being mistakenly identified as Chinese source given growing links of Chinese criminal elements to North Koreas drug productiontrafficking activities.
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