August 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 July 2011
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DPRK (North Korea)

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

Key Recent Developments
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Republic of Korea (ROK) Nuclear Envoy Wi Sung-lac held talks on the sideline of an ASEAN conference in Bali on 22 July. After the meeting, Ri said the purpose was to work toward a resumption of six-party talks. Wi said the parties had agreed to make joint efforts toward denuclearisation and to set conditions to resume six-party talks. On 24 July US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the US had invited DPRK Vice Minister Kim Kae-gwan to New York in late July. Kim will apparently meet with a number of US officials for discussions on a return to six party talks.

On 10 June the Council extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts that supports the DPRK Sanctions Committee until 12 June 2012. Resolution 1985 requested that the Panel submit to the Council a midterm report on its work by 12 December and a final report upon termination of its mandate. The Panel was asked to provide each of these reports to the Committee a month before they are submitted to the Council in order to allow for a discussion. In addition, the Panel is requested to provide the Committee with a programme of work within 30 days of its appointment. (The Secretary-General informed the Council on 27 June that he had reappointed the individuals on the Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts after consulting with the Committee and the Panel submitted its programme of work in mid-July.)

Gary Samore, the US White House special assistant on arms control, said on 13 June that a US navy ship had intercepted a ship traveling from the DPRK to Myanmar on 26 May. The ship, the M/V Light, was flying the flag of Belize. Belize gave permission for the ship to be boarded, but the crew refused and after several days the ship turned back without being searched. Samore said that the ASEAN nations (including Myanmar) had cooperated to encourage the DPRK to recall the ship.

The DPRK assumed the presidency of the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on 28 June. (The presidency of the conference rotates on an alphabetical basis.) The DPRK, whose presidency will run until 19 August, said it was prepared to participate in nuclear disarmament discussions in the context of the conference. However, substantive talks appeared unlikely. Canada announced on 11 July that it would temporarily withdraw from the conference to protest the DPRK’s leadership position.

The EU announced on 4 July that it had negotiated an agreement with the DPRK to establish a monitoring mechanism to ensure that aid was delivered directly to those individuals who are most vulnerable, such as children under age five, pregnant and breast-feeding women, the sick and the old. The agreement came after an EU mission found that food rations distributed by the DPRK, which two thirds of its population rely on, had been cut from 400g of cereals per person per day in early April to 150g in June, or only a fifth of the daily average nutritional requirement. EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva said that if it were discovered that aid was being diverted from the intended recipients the commission would not hesitate to end the aid. (While humanitarian groups have warned that up to 6 million DPRK citizens face severe food shortages in eastern and northern provinces, donors remain concerned about the risks of diversion of supplies by the regime.)

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen arrived in China on 10 July for talks with his counterpart, Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Staff head Chen Bingde. Mullen told reporters that recent DPRK provocations are potentially more dangerous than in the past. He said it would continue to be very important for China to exercise its influence with the DPRK leadership. During a visit to the ROK that followed, Mullen praised the ROK leadership on 14 July for showing restraint in the face of provocations last year. He also cautioned that the DPRK should not mistake restraint for lack of resolve and warned of a strong response to any future attack.

On 12 July DPRK leader Kim Jong Il and his son and assumed successor, Kim Jong Un, met with visiting Chinese delegates, including Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang.

Key Issues
An ongoing issue is weighing the benefit of holding off on discussion in the Council of the underlying issues regarding the DPRK. This remains problematic for Council members both at the Council and sanctions committee levels. The Sanctions Committee still has on its agenda whether, and when, to implement some or all of the recommendations made in the last panel of experts report.

A related issue is whether the cautious approach in the Council enhances the possibility of the DPRK and others reengaging in the six-party talks process or not. It is unclear whether the sanctions regime is helpful in prompting a change in behaviour on the part of the DPRK.

Underlying Problems
Key underlying problems are the refusal of the DPRK to abide by Council resolutions relating to its nuclear programme and the perception by many in the international community that the DPRK tries to maximise leverage by reengaging in, and disengaging from, negotiations at will. 

Options for the Council include:

  • refraining from public action at present while allowing the Committee to continue discussing the possible implementation of recommendations contained in the last Panel of Experts report;
  • encouraging the Committee to act on some of the recommendations made by the Panel; or
  • issuing a statement in response to the DPRK’s uranium enrichment activity and continued non-compliance with Council resolutions.

Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members were in agreement on the June renewal of the Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts. Support was apparent both for the Panel and for the overall work of the Committee. However, some tensions exist. The Committee remains at odds over the Panel’s most recent report, including whether to publish it and whether to implement its recommendations (such as naming additional entities to the sanctions list).

The permanent members who have been involved in the six-party talks process seem to prefer the cautious approach with the Council. Many Council members continue to be concerned by reports of DPRK efforts to circumvent sanctions measures (the August briefing appears likely to cover at least two new reported sanctions violations).

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1985 (10 June 2011) extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts that supports the DPRK Sanctions Committee until 12 June 2012 and asked the Panel to provide its midterm and final reports to the committee a month before they are submitted to the Council, in order to allow for a discussion.
  • 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. 

Security Council Letter

  • S/2011/391 (27 June 2011) notified the Council that the Secretary-General had reappointed the panel of experts that supports the committee’s work.

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)

Useful Additional Sources

Strangers at Home: North Koreans in the South, Asia Report No. 208, International Crisis Group, 14 July 2011.

Andrew Marble, “Political Change in the DPRK: An Interview with Stephan Haggard and Daniel Pinkston,” Policy Q&A No. 12, Asia Policy, July 2011.

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