Project Sandstone

This Project is an initiative to systematically analyse North Korea’s proliferation, procurement and sanctions evasion networks.




Established in 2019, Project Sandstone is an initiative to systematically collect and analyse open-source data to generate replicable, actionable open-source intelligence on North Korea’s weapons proliferation and smuggling networks. The initiative aims to document and publicise North Korea's ongoing attempts to proliferate weapons of mass destructions and evade multilateral and unilateral sanctions designed to arrest these efforts.    

OSIA has published several public reports on North Korea’s illicit activities, covering areas such as the export of the country’s coal to foreign customers, the acquisition and shipment of dual-use items through front companies to North Korea, and the procurement of oil from fuel smuggling networks operating in the East Asia region.  

Project Sandstone’s reporting has been featured in news reports published by major media outlets. In 2021, Project Sandstone released a report covered by the New York Times’s Visual Investigations Team focused on North Korea’s illicit oil procurement networks. Previous reports have been covered by the Wall Street Journal, The Times and a number of other international news outlets.

Reports

Access the Project Sandstone Reports

Project Sandstone Report 1: The Jie Shun Incident

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Project Sandstone Report 2: The Sailors of Panama

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Project Sandstone Report 3: On the Trail of the Tae Yang: AIS Spoofing and Nort...

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Project Sandstone Report 4: Down and Out in Pyongyang and London

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Project Sandstone Report 5: Kaohsiung Cowboys: The Taiwanese Networ...

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Project Sandstone Report 6: The Phantom Fleet: North Korea’s Smugglers i...

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Project Sandstone Report 7: The Billion-Dollar Border Town: North Korea's Trad...

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Project Sandstone Report 8: Our Man in Malaysia: The Ri Jong Chol Files

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Project Sandstone Special Report: Black Gold: Exposing North Korea's Oi...

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External publications

NK Pro News & Analysis articles

Amid North Korean food ‘crisis,’ signs of possible humanitarian aid imports
Two inbound shipments of possible humanitarian aid detected in May and June 2021 satellite imagery
Authors: Chad O'Carroll, Joseph Byrne | Date: July 8, 2021

North Korea moves to complete new oil terminal despite UN cap on fuel imports
Rapid construction of three storage tanks and support buildings at Nampho port finished in 2020, satellite images show
Authors: Joseph Byrne, Min Chao Choy | Date: February 2, 2021

North Korean coal smuggling route to China rebounds to pre-COVID activity levels
At least 17 DPRK-linked ships traversed Chinese waters as authorities turn a blind eye to illicit shipping
Authors: Hamish Macdonald,  James Byrne, Joseph Byrne,  Min Chao Choy | Date: July 17, 2020

South Korean firm repeatedly tied to North Korea-linked ship-to-ship transfers
ROK company implicated in encounters with DPRK-flagged and UNSC-designated vessels
Authors: Chad O'Carroll, James Byrne, Joseph Byrne, Min Chao Choy | Date: April 20, 2020

Funding

  • Government of Canada

    Global Affairs Canada define, shape and advance Canada’s interests and values in a complex global environment. We manage diplomatic relations, promote international trade and provide consular support. We lead international development, humanitarian, and peace and security assistance efforts. We also contribute to national security and the development of international law.

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