May 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 April 2011
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DPRK (North Korea)

Expected Council Action
In May the Council is expected to receive a regular quarterly briefing from the chair of the DPRK Sanctions Committee. No Council decision was expected at time of writing.

Key Recent Developments
The Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held military talks at Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone from 8 to 9 February as a preliminary step toward resuming higher-level political dialogue. The talks ended with no agreement on the date or agenda of further meetings.

Regional media reported on 20 February that ROK officials believed the DPRK to be excavating tunnels in the vicinity of its previous nuclear tests, raising the possibility that another test is being prepared.

The DPRK military on 27 February criticised the start of annual military exercises by the ROK and the US, asserting that they were an impediment to easing tensions on the Korean peninsula and that the DPRK would respond militarily to any provocation.

ROK President Lee Myung-bak said during a speech on 1 March that the ROK was prepared for dialogue with the DPRK at any time. The same day, US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the US continues to adhere to a dual-track approach with the DPRK that pursues meaningful engagement as well as the full implementation of existing sanctions measures.

At the conclusion of a visit made by Russian nuclear negotiator Alexei Borodavkin, a DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesman said on 15 March that the DPRK was willing to return to six-party talks with no preconditions and discuss its uranium enrichment programme in that context. (The six parties are the DPRK, China, Japan, the ROK, Russia and the US. The DPRK withdrew from the talks in April 2009.) On 17 March, ROK Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said the offer to discuss the DPRK uranium enrichment programme in the six-party format was not acceptable.

On 22 March a spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry said the crisis in Libya demonstrated that by giving up its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, Libya had only encouraged the US to take aggressive military action against it.

The ROK military held live-ammunition ground and naval exercises from 24 to 27 March, around the one-year anniversary of the sinking of the ROK navy ship Cheonan (46 servicemen died in the incident). The exercises were intended to demonstrate military readiness and a commitment to respond forcefully to any future attacks by the DPRK.

On 25 March the Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Food Programme and the UN Children’s Fund said in a report that the DPRK was highly vulnerable to a food crisis and that the country’s public distribution system could run out of food as early as May.

The DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly met on 7 April but did not appoint Kim Jong Un, the likely successor to Kim Jong Il, to the National Defence Commission as some observers had expected. The same day, the DPRK representative to the stalled six-party talks, First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, reportedly travelled to China. The timing of the trip coincided with a visit to China by US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell. Campbell was expected to meet with Wu Dawei, China’s representative to the talks.

ROK Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin warned on 5 April that the DPRK might launch sneak attacks from across a disputed maritime boundary. Media outlets had reported that the DPRK had increased its submarine activities near the disputed area.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the ROK from 16 to 17 April to meet with President Lee and Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan to discuss cooperation on regional issues. In press remarks, Clinton and Kim called for a strong response to the DPRK’s uranium enrichment programme and for dialogue on the nuclear issue between the ROK and the DPRK before resuming six-party talks.

On 18 April a US State Department spokesman said the DPRK must demonstrate its willingness to engage in constructive dialogue with the ROK but that an apology for the sinking of the ROK navy ship Cheonan is not a precondition for talks.

On 26 April former US President Jimmy Carter began a three-day trip to the DPRK with former Irish President Mary Robinson, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland. The group hoped to revive nuclear disarmament talks and identify ways to provide humanitarian aid to the country.

Human Rights-Related Developments
On 24 March during a debate on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, the Human Rights Council (HRC) expressed its serious concern at the ongoing grave, widespread and systematic human rights violations there. By a vote of 30 to three, the HRC extended the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the DPRK for a period of one year. (China, Cuba and Russia opposed the extension, and 11 countries abstained.) The Council also urged the DPRK government to ensure full, rapid and unimpeded access of humanitarian assistance, delivered on the basis of need in accordance with humanitarian principles and with adequate monitoring.

Key Issues
Key issues for the Council continue to be whether the sanctions regime is proving effective and whether deference to the stalled six-party process should continue to guide the Council’s course of action.

A related issue for the sanctions committee is whether to possibly add names of individuals or entities to be subject to the sanctions regime or whether to implement other recommendations made in the last panel of experts report.

Underlying Problems
Key underlying problems are the refusal of the DPRK to abide by Council resolutions and concern that re-engaging in six-party talks may simply be a DPRK tactic for receiving aid in the near-term.

Options include:

  • refraining from further action while the six parties continue considering a re-engagement in talks;
  • discussing the possibility of designating additional entities or individuals subject to the current sanctions regime; or
  • imposing additional measures against the DPRK in response to its continued non-compliance and uranium enrichment activity.

Council and Wider Dynamics
Many Committee members remain concerned by the DPRK uranium enrichment programme that came to light late last year but are mindful that finding agreement on a Council statement in response has not been possible. It is not clear how quickly, or if, this dynamic may change.

Most members continue to stress the importance of maintaining Council unity in supporting the sanctions currently in place, rather than imposing additional measures at this time. There seems to be a feeling that due to the high level of involvement by three permanent members in the six-party talks, substantive Council action is unlikely while bilateral dialogue continues among six-party participants.

UN Documents

Selected Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1928 (7 June 2010) extended the mandate of the panel of experts that assists the DPRK Sanctions Committee until 12 June 2011.
  • 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.

Selected Presidential Statement

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

Latest Sanctions Committee Annual Report

Other Relevant Facts

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

Ambassador José Filipe Moraes Cabral (Portugal)

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