Key Recent Developments
Former US President Jimmy Carter, former Irish President Mary Robinson, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland visited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) from 26 to 28 April. The group hoped to confirm the willingness of the DPRK to engage directly with the Republic of Korea (ROK) and to identify ways to provide humanitarian food aid to the country. At the conclusion of their trip on 28 April they received a written message from DPRK leader Kim Jong Il calling for a resumption of six-party talks and saying he supported inter-Korean dialogue, including a summit meeting with ROK President Lee Myung-bak. Carter emphasised to ROK officials the same day the dire need for food aid that he had witnessed in the north.
The panel of experts that assists the DPRK sanctions committee submitted the final report under its current mandate to the Council in mid-May. It seems that China has some difficulties with the report. (A version leaked to media outlets suggests that items prohibited by the sanctions regime have been transferred between the DPRK and Iran on aircraft that transit through a third country (possibly China)). Formal publication of the report seems unlikely for the time being. (It took six months to get agreement to publicly release the panel’s 2010 report because of China’s reluctance.)
On 9 May, ROK President Lee offered to meet with Kim Jong Il at a nuclear security summit scheduled to be held in Seoul in 2012 if the DPRK took responsibility for the sinking of an ROK navy ship and the shelling of Yeonpyeong island, both in 2010. DPRK state media carried a government response that the offer was “ridiculous.”
Senior US and Chinese officials met in Washington from 9 to 10 May. At the conclusion of talks, the US State Department issued a statement that participants had reiterated their common position on the DPRK made in a joint statement in January after talks between President Hu Jintao of China and US President Barack Obama. (The statement said constructive dialogue between the two Koreas and an improvement in their bilateral relations were essential to progress.)
The US special representative for North Korea policy, Stephen Bosworth, travelled to the ROK from 16 to 18 May for talks with the South’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, Wi Sung-lac, and other officials. In remarks after the discussions, Bosworth said communication and coordination between the ROK and the US were extremely good and that they had almost reached a common view on the possibility of providing food assistance to the DPRK.
On 17 May the chair of the DPRK Sanctions Committee delivered a regular 90-day briefing to the Council in informal consultations. It seems that many Council members urged that the panel of experts’ report be published as soon as possible. However, China apparently said that it required more time to analyse its contents.
On 18 May China’s assistant minister of foreign affairs, Hu Zhengyue, denied China was a transit point for banned DPRK missile components.
On 20 May, Kim Jong Il was reported to have begun an unannounced trip to China, apparently for talks related to the DPRK’s economic development.
US special envoy for human rights in the DPRK, Robert King, travelled to the DPRK on 24 May for talks related to humanitarian issues.
Human Rights-Related Developments
A related issue is whether the current sanctions regime is proving effective.
- a simple technical resolution to renew the mandate of the experts;
- more sustained efforts to secure agreement on release of the recent report; or
- waiting while the parties continue considering a re-engagement in talks and to allow more time for Council members to digest the latest panel of experts’ report.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Most Council members appear to be fully supportive of extending the mandate of the committee’s panel of experts. The panel has come to be viewed as essential to the committee’s work and therefore to the effective monitoring of the sanctions regime.
Some members are concerned that the recent contention over the contents of the panel’s final report (as well as the question of how soon it may be published) may develop into a more general disagreement on the role and function of the panel. Nevertheless, many Council members believe that extending the panel of experts for another year should be fairly straightforward, especially if the renewal resolution retains the current mandate and makeup of the panel.
Many committee members remain concerned by the DPRK’s efforts to circumvent sanctions measures, as well as its uranium enrichment programme that came to light in 2010. However, they also seem to realise that the sensitivities of the permanent members engaged in the six-party talks process limit the scope for the Council to be more active.
Selected Council Resolutions
Latest Sanctions Committee Annual Report
Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006)