In a rough estimate, Noland said arms and illicit exports accounted for just under 10 percent of the merchandise the North traded in 2011, compared with more than 30 percent in 1999, when the economy was at a low point after years of famine. International interdiction efforts have also impeded the illicit trade, he said.
The North's improved financial standing could help explain its recent provocative behavior in conducting rocket and nuclear tests, he said, but added it is now very dependent on China, particularly for its energy supplies, and would be economically vulnerable if Beijing changed its policy.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.