When it comes to military hardware sales, clients can be classified into three main groups, Andrea Berger outlined in a 2016 paper when she was deputy director of the proliferation and nuclear policy program at the Royal United Services Institute.
The most resilient customers include fellow renegade nations such as Iran, Syria, Cuba and Uganda, “whose military ties to North Korea have weathered decades and shown few efforts to cease cooperation,” Berger said.
Reluctant customers, such as Ethiopia and Yemen, “might prefer to buy elsewhere, but because of price or lingering dependency have found it difficult to cut Pyongyang out of their arms-related supply chain,” Berger continued, adding that he Republic of the Congo is one of the many ad hoc customers that turns to North Korea as a sporadic supplier.
While those markets are now expected to stay away from Pyongyang in light of the new sanctions, Dewey noted they could be susceptible to striking more deals depending on whether prices justified the increasing pressure surrounding North Korea.
Regarding North Korean nuclear technology exports, Libya and Syria have been the primary recipients, but neither is seen in a position to resume their nuclear programs at the moment.
The Philippines, who was Pyongyang’s third-largest trading partner in 2016, remains a hub for North Korean drugs, according to the Peterson Institute of International Economics.