January 2009 Monthly Forecast

ASIA

DPRK (North Korea)

Expected Council Action

The Sanctions Committee on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is expected to submit its annual report in January and brief the Council on recent activity. At press time it was not known who the new chairman of the Committee will be. (Italy, the current chair, leaves the Council on 31 December.)

The Committee’s report is likely to be limited as there has been no Committee activity since July 2007. No Council action is expected.

Key Recent Developments
In the last three months there have been several attempts to put back on track the denuclearisation process in the DPRK. This followed the DPRK action in September when Pyongyang removed seals and surveillance cameras at the Yongbyon nuclear plant, announced that the plant would resume reprocessing activities, and barred IAEA inspectors from the site. It claimed the US had not respected the “action for action” principle contained in the February 2007 six-party agreement in its refusal to remove the DPRK from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism despite its submission in June of a list of its nuclear activities. While the US requested verification measures for the list, the DPRK claimed that this was not part of the agreement.

From 1 to 3 October, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill visited the DPRK in an attempt to find a solution to the crisis. According to press reports, it appears that Hill suggested that the DPRK could provide evidence of its disarmament solely to China instead of to a wider group of nations. But a verification protocol would still have to be agreed upon among the six parties.

The US agreed on 11 October to remove the DPRK from the list of states sponsoring terrorism. On 13 October the DPRK restored IAEA access to the Yongbyon nuclear plant and resumed disablement activities.

On 7 October, a Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly on the situation of human rights in the DPRK was made public. It expressed concern about reports indicating gross violations of human rights in the DPRK, and food shortages. On 23 October, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK Vitit Muntarbhorn told the General Assembly that urgent action was essential. He added that there had been no progress to shift the DPRK’s pro-military budget to a pro-development budget.

On 30 October, the General Assembly’s Third Committee on Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Affairs agreed on a draft resolution (A/C.3/63/L.26), which was subsequently adopted by the General Assembly Plenary on 18 December. The draft resolution strongly urges the DPRK to end systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights. It also urges Pyongyang to extend its full cooperation to Muntarbhorn, by granting him full, free and unimpeded access. He has never been allowed into the DPRK. The General Assembly has adopted a human rights resolution on DPRK every year since 2005, but this year for the first time the Republic of Korea (South Korea) cosponsored the resolution.

On 12 November, the DPRK said it was slowing down the disablement process because of delays in the delivery of energy aid. (Under the 2007 agreement, up to 1 million tonnes of heavy fuel was to be provided to the DPRK when it disabled its nuclear facility and provided information about its nuclear programmes.)

From 8 to 12 December a round of six-party talks was held in Beijing. These ended in an impasse after the DPRK rejected verification proposals. In particular, the DPRK continues to refuse to allow the IAEA to take soil and air samples near nuclear facilities and send them overseas for testing.

Relations between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea have soured since a new government took office in Seoul in February 2008. Bilateral relations continued to deteriorate when, in October, the DPRK test-fired two short-range missiles and on 1 December when the DPRK started to scale down the number of South Koreans allowed to cross the border.

Key Issues
At this stage, it appears that the only issue the Council might address is the frequency of its briefings. Currently, briefings are held every ninety days.

It may be that the Council could play a role in helping the denuclearisation process by reinforcing the work being handled by the six-party talks. Another option may be to review the sanctions regime in the hope of providing incentives for DPRK cooperation in the denuclearisation process.

Council Dynamics
There is little appetite for tackling the DPRK nuclear issue at this time. Some believe that sanctions have had only a limited impact. Others consider that leverage on the process lies elsewhere.

UN Documents

Selected Resolution

  • S/RES/1718 (14 October 2006) expressed grave concern over the DPRK’s nuclear test, imposed sanctions and set up the Sanctions Committee.

Latest Sanctions Committee Annual Report

Other

  • A/C.3/63/L.26 (30 October 2008) was a draft resolution before the General Assembly urging the DPRK to put an end to violations of human rights.
  • A/63/332 (26 August 2008) was a Secretary-General’s report on human rights in the DPRK.

Useful Additional Sources

Full forecast