North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stepped down from a car believed to be a Rolls-Royce when meeting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last October.

Last year, Hugh Griffiths, coordinator of the United Nations group of experts in charge of North Korea’s sanctions violations, received startling new evidence of Pyongyang’s violation of international sanctions:

UN sanctions prohibit North Korea from buying certain luxury items such as jewelry, yachts or luxury cars, like the limousine Kim used in Pyongyang in October 2018, when Secretary of State Pompeo visited North Korea.

The photos of Kim in the Rolls-Royce opened a new investigation for Griffiths and a team of experts at the United Nations.

`If you can smuggle into North Korea an entire limousine, which is usually shipped in containers, you can also smuggle smaller parts such as those used for both ballistic missiles and programs.`

US President Donald Trump’s administration is pursuing a policy of `putting maximum pressure on North Korea` through sanctions and embargoes, considering this an effective way to force Pyongyang to sit at the negotiating table with Washington.

`North Korea continues to defy Security Council resolutions through illegal trading in petroleum products and coal,` the United Nations concluded in March.

Sung-Yon Lee, a professor of Korean studies at Tufts University, USA, said that North Korea spent $650-700 million a year importing luxury goods, from premium wine to skis, and China.

The familiar `R` symbol of Rolls-Royce is clearly seen on the car carrying the North Korean leader.

According to Griffiths, the North Korean leader’s decision last year to use a limousine to meet the US Secretary of State was a way for him to send a message that North Korea was more than capable of dealing with sanctions.

However, Kim’s actions also gave UN investigators a new clue.

At that time, the first step they took was to take public photos from Pyongyang and look for any outstanding identifying features of the luxury car.

The road for luxury cars to enter North Korea

The bulletproof Mercedes S600 Pullman Guard is protected by a 12-person bodyguard team of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

According to a United Nations report, the car was shipped by container from the port of Long Beach, California, to Dalian, China, at the request of George Ma, a Chinese businessman.

But it is difficult for UN officials to conduct an investigation into the Rolls-Royce without identifying information about the car.

Attorney Joshua Stanton, who participated in helping the US Congress draft the North Korea sanctions law, agrees that the appearance of limousines in North Korea is a sign of how sanctions are being enforced.

According to Stanton, Kim Jong-un `showing off` luxury cars seems to be a  way to cover up the difficulties North Korea is facing.