February 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 January 2011
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DPRK (North Korea)

Expected Council Action
In February the chair of the DPRK Sanctions Committee is expected to brief the Council. At time of writing no Council decision was expected.

Key Recent Developments
In mid-November, US scientist and former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Siegfried Hecker reported that he had been shown construction work in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on a new light-water nuclear reactor and a uranium enrichment facility.

On 23 November 2010 the DPRK shelling of Yeonpyeong, a ROK island near a disputed maritime border, elevated tensions. The DPRK shelling came after the ROK fired artillery into the disputed area during a military drill. DPRK actions were condemned by the US and eight other Council members and on 13 December 2010 Russia criticised the DPRK’s shelling and expressed concern over recently disclosed uranium enrichment activities.

On Sunday 19 December 2010 at the request of Russia the Council held emergency consultations and a closed Council meeting. The DPRK and the ROK attended the closed meeting. Although lengthy discussions on a draft press statement took place, Council members were unable to find consensus.

US Governor Bill Richardson travelled to the DPRK from 16 to 20 December 2010. DPRK officials reportedly told him they were prepared to allow inspectors access to the country’s nuclear facilities and were willing to discuss exporting some plutonium fuel to another country.

In a joint statement released on 19 January during a state visit to Washington, DC by Chinese President Hu Jintao, China and the US expressed concern over heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula triggered by recent developments, including with regard to the DPRK’s uranium enrichment program.

On 20 January the ROK agreed to a DPRK offer to hold military talks as a precursor to a possible resumption of six-party talks. The military talks will apparently discuss the 26 March 2010 sinking of the Cheonan, as well as the shelling of Yeonpyeong island.

The final report of the sanctions committee panel of experts’ first year of operation was published on 5 November 2010. The report had been held by the committee since its submission on 12 May 2010, reportedly due to China’s reluctance. (Sanctions committees operate by consensus.)

The report noted that while sanctions measures seem to be having an impact, the DPRK has used shell companies and falsified manifests in order to continue exporting proscribed items. Indications were found of continuing DPRK involvement in nuclear and ballistic missile-related activities in certain countries, including Iran, Myanmar and Syria. The panel recommended:

  • the chair of the committee send a note verbale to member states that have not yet provided national implementation reports;
  • engagement with countries to gather additional information on implementation and possibly an optional checklist template for states;
  • more detailed guidelines concerning the definition of luxury goods;
  • additional names of entities and individuals believed to be engaged in proscribed activities; and
  • a more user-friendly consolidated list for each category of proscribed items, as well as guidance to states as to what is included in the small arms and light weapons designation.

Key Issues
A key issue is whether the sanctions regime is proving effective, and how to implement the panel’s report. The related issue is the new uranium enrichment plant. A second likely issue is maintaining support among all Council members for the sanctions currently in place.

A key issue for the committee is the possible addition of names of new persons subject to the sanctions regime.

Underlying Problems
Key underlying problems are the continued refusal of the DPRK to abide by Council resolutions, a lack of transparency about the scope of, and intentions for, its nuclear programme and a continuing lack of trust between the DPRK, the ROK and others.

Options include:

  • refraining from any decision at this time while more time is given for reengagement in the six-party talks format;
  • a press or presidential statement that confirms the Council’s support at present for ongoing bilateral negotiations or a return to six-party talks;
  • designating, or encouraging the committee to designate, additional entities or individuals subject to the sanctions currently in place; and
  • considering additional measures against the DPRK in response to the recent revelation about uranium enrichment activity.

Council and Wider Dynamics
It does not seem that Council members expect any new revelations at the upcoming briefing. Some Committee members hope to soon come to agreement on implementing the recommendations contained in the Panel’s report, particularly measures related to providing states with more guidance on national implementation reports and the designation of luxury goods subject to the sanctions.

It seems many Council members are concerned by the DPRK uranium enrichment programme that recently came to light and look forward to receiving the Panel’s input on the matter.

A number of Council members are still concerned over the delay in circulating the panel of experts’ 12 May 2010 report to the Council, as well as the fact that the Council could not reach agreement on a statement during the 19 December emergency consultations on tensions on the Korean peninsula. However, maintaining Council unity seems still to be the focus at present for many members. Members are waiting to see whether recent overtures by the DPRK to address the ROK’s concerns as a prelude to returning to six-party talks will result in substantive progress in the near future.

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UN Documents

Selected Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1928 (7 June 2010) extended the mandate of the panel of experts until 12 June 2011.
  • S/RES/1887 (24 September 2009) reaffirmed that the proliferation of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery are threats to international peace and security.
  • S/RES/1874 (12 June 2009) condemned the DPRK’s 25 May 2009 underground nuclear test, expanded the existing arms embargo and authorised inspection of cargoes to and from the DPRK, as well as vessels on the high seas, and provided for the creation of a panel of experts to assist the committee.
  • S/RES/1718 (14 October 2006) expressed grave concern over the DPRK’s nuclear test, imposed sanctions and set up a sanctions committee.
  • S/RES/1695 (15 July 2006) condemned the DPRK’s launch of ballistic missiles.
  • S/RES/825 (11 May 1993) called on the DPRK to reconsider withdrawing from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and to honour its non-proliferation obligations under the NPT.

Selected Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2010/13 (9 July 2010) condemned the 26 March attack that led to the sinking of the ROK naval ship Cheonan and encouraged the settlement of outstanding issues on the Korean peninsula by peaceful means and resuming direct dialogue and negotiation as early as possible.

Latest Sanctions Committee Annual Report

Selected Letters

  • S/2010/571 (5 November 2010) was a note transmitting the final report of the panel’s first year’s work.

Other Relevant Facts

Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006)

Ambassador José Filipe Moraes Cabral (Portugal)

Useful Additional Source
North Korea: The Risks of War in the Yellow Sea, Asia Report No. 198, International Crisis Group, 23 December 2010
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