November 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 October 2011
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DPRK (North Korea)

Expected Council Action
As chair of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee, Ambassador José Filipe Moraes Cabral (Portugal) is expected to brief the Council in informal consultations in November. On 10 June—in resolution 1985—the Council extended the mandate of the panel of experts that supports the committee until 12 June 2012. The panel is scheduled to provide the Committee with its midterm report by 12 November.

The November briefing is likely to be routine; no Council action is expected at this time.

Key Recent Developments
On 28 and 29 July, US Special Envoy Stephen Bosworth and DPRK Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kae-gwan held talks in New York. The two-day discussions, which concerned the DPRK’s nuclear programme, were the first meetings between the two countries addressing the possibility of a return to the six-party talks process since negotiations ended in December 2008. 

On 21 September, the DPRK’s chief nuclear envoy, Ri Yong-ho, and his counterpart from the Republic of Korea (ROK), Wi Sung-lac, met in Beijing to discuss the revival of the six-party talks. (The process also involves the US, China, Russia and Japan.) It was the second time in two months that the two envoys had met. Both countries described the discussions in Beijing as “constructive and useful.”

On 24 August, during his first trip to Russia since 2002, DPRK leader Kim Jong Il met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The discussions focused on nuclear disarmament, energy deals and economic aid. The timing of Kim’s rare visit—as the DPRK undertakes steps to potentially restart the six-party talks—was noteworthy. 

In mid-October, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, visited the DPRK to seek more freedom for aid agencies operating in the country. Severe restrictions on the movement of foreigners have recently been eased in some areas, allowing the World Food Programme to carry out “random” visits with 24-hour notice to check how aid is used.

On 20 October, the US and the DPRK concluded three-day talks in Bangkok, during which the two sides agreed for the US to restart efforts to recover the remains of US troops killed during the Korean War. Talks between the two countries stalled in 2005. Recovering the remains was the only issue on the agenda, although it is perhaps another sign that both sides might be willing to re-engage.

On 24-25 October, an interagency team of US officials—led by outgoing Special Envoy Bosworth—met with a DPRK delegation led by Vice Foreign Minister Kim in Geneva. The US said there was some “narrowing of differences” during what it described as a constructive meeting. But important issues remained, it said, and the process would take time to see if the DPRK was prepared to undertake the “concrete” steps necessary to revive the six-party talks.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Sanctions Committee is whether to implement some or all of the recommendations of the panel of experts’ most recent report. The panel’s last report from May has not been made public, and some Council members have questioned its credibility and recommendations. 

A related issue for the Council is how to deal with any violations reported to the Sanctions Committee. Council members are unlikely to take measures that might threaten potential political progress, but on the other hand they acknowledge that they have binding obligations concerning violations of the sanctions regime.

Underlying Problems
The Sanctions Committee has been deadlocked on several issues this year. Some elected Council members in particular seem frustrated at the Committee’s inability to take action and have expressed disappointment that there has been no agreement to publish the panel’s recent report.


Progress within the deadlocked Sanctions Committee will be difficult in November. One area that the committee could work on—without touching on the more sensitive issue of the sanctions regime—is providing more clarity on the definition of “luxury goods.” In resolution 1718 (2006), the Council decided that member states should not supply, sell or transfer luxury goods to the DPRK, but no elaboration on their definition has been given. The Committee could aim to provide an Implementation Assistance Notice to give more guidance to member states, without going as far as compiling a list of such items.

Another option for the Committee would be to review the list of entities, goods and individuals subject to the sanctions measures imposed by resolution 1718. This list was last updated on 16 July 2009. 

Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council has renewed the panel of experts’ mandate and is in agreement on the overall work of the Committee. But some members have resisted publishing the panel’s recommendations, which include adding entities to the sanctions list. That does not preclude the Committee from following up on the panel’s recommendations, and the US and some elected members have indicated that the unpublished report contains useful information that the broader UN membership would find helpful. But the report’s publication seems to remain a sensitive issue for other permanent members.

At the broader political level, several member states have emphasised that while the current bilateral talks are a step in the right direction, they are still exploratory. Progress will be assessed, they indicate, by the DPRK demonstrating genuine willingness to re-engage in the six-party talks process. But there are divergent views among Council members on the prerequisites for the DPRK’s return to these talks. US policy has been that Pyongyang must halt its uranium enrichment programme and permit international nuclear inspectors to return to the DPRK before talks can recommence. Others, including Russia, favour an immediate return to the six-party talks without preconditions.

China, Russia and the US—as the six-party talks countries on the Council—are the lead.

Selected 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/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. It 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.

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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