November 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 November 2012
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DPRK (North Korea)

Expected Council Action

Ambassador José Filipe Moraes Cabral (Portugal)—the chair of the 1718 Committee, which oversees the sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)—is scheduled to brief Council members in November on the Committee’s recent work. These regular quarterly briefings are in closed consultations.

The Panel of Experts (PoE) that supports the work of the Committee is due to provide a mid-term report of its work to the Committee by 12 November, pursuant to resolution 2050 (2012). After this report is discussed with the Committee, the PoE is requested to submit the report to the Council by 12 December.

No Council action is expected.

Key Recent Developments

On 29 August, mid-level officials from Japan and the DPRK held a meeting at the Japanese embassy in Beijing. It was the first time in four years that the two countries—which do not share diplomatic relations—had held talks. The outcome of the meeting was inconclusive but was aimed at shaping an agenda for future high-level talks. A key issue for Japan is to be allowed to retrieve the remains of several thousand Japanese citizens who died at the end of World War II in the north of Korea while it was still a Japanese colony.

As the two countries considered the possibility of a next round of talks, Kim Young-Nam—who serves as the DPRK’s ceremonial head of state—was quoted on 12 October as saying that Japan should apologise for its wartime aggression.

On 7 October, the US and the Republic of Korea (ROK) announced that they had reached an agreement to extend the range of Seoul’s ballistic missiles. The ROK’s chief national security adviser, Chun Yung-woo, announced that the goal of revising the pact was to deter armed provocation from the DPRK and to be able to incapacitate its nuclear and missile capabilities at an early stage. (The range of the missiles will be more than doubled from 300 kilometres to 800 kilometres, which would mean the missiles could reach any target in the DPRK, but would not be considered a threat to China.) 

Two days later, the DPRK’s KCNA news agency reported an official statement saying that the US declaration that Washington did not have a hostile policy towards the DPRK was a lie. The statement also said that the DPRK had “strategic rocket forces” that could strike not only “the US imperialist aggression forces’ bases in the inviolable land of Korea but also Japan, Guam and the US mainland.” The US State Department said it considered the range of the DPRK’s missiles an intelligence issue and would not discuss the veracity of the DPRK’s claims. But it noted that Pyongyang was bound by Council resolutions. A spokeswoman also said that rather than “bragging about its missile capability, they ought to be feeding their own people,” and that threats and provocations would undermine the DPRK’s efforts to “get back into conversation with the international community.”

On 28 October, a group of DPRK defectors went ahead with the launch of balloons filled with propaganda leaflets over the border into their former homeland. A week earlier, ROK police had prevented the activists from launching the balloons after the DPRK had threatened military action against its southern neighbour.

In developments at the UN, the Sanctions Committee met on 24 October to discuss the 12 recommendations in the 14 June PoE report (S/2012/422). The PoE’s first recommendation was for the Committee to consider the financial and technical challenges that inspections, seizure and disposal of prohibited materials originating from the DPRK present to member states. The Committee agreed to commence drafting an Implementation Assistance Notice (IAN)—a guidelines paper—to assist member states with this issue and asked the PoE to provide it with a background paper on the matter.

The PoE report recommended that the Committee prepare—or issue—three other IANs and that the Council take steps to establish an inter-panel coordination mechanism to address synergies between other PoEs. The Committee discussed this matter and the recommendation that the Committee invite relevant UN organisations to engage with it to ensure that delivery of items, including computers, to the DPRK were consistent with Council resolutions on the prohibition of luxury goods. The necessary consensus was not reached in the Committee to make progress on these issues at this stage. (The Committee comprises all 15 Council members and makes decisions by “consensus of its members.”)

Human Rights-Related Developments

Reporting to the General Assembly in September, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, Marzuki Darusman, noted that he had received reports and testimonies of a wide range of human rights violations. These included extensive use of political prison camps, poor prison conditions and prisoners being subjected to forced labour, torture and corporal punishment. The authorities have continued to impose severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and movement, combined with harsh punishments. Despite his various requests, Marzuki had not been able to visit the DPRK. The report is therefore based on a mission to Thailand in June and on meetings held in Geneva, New York and Jakarta.

On 18 October at a press conference in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed her concern about the human rights situation in the DPRK, including the use of political prison camps, public executions and severe food shortages. She also highlighted the extreme difficulty of gaining access to the country.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is for the DPRK to abide by its obligations under Council resolutions and for tensions on the Korean Peninsula not to escalate. 

The 1718 Committee is focused on ensuring that the sanctions regime is duly implemented, while not inflaming the political situation by being seen to widen the sanctions without the Council’s explicit authorisation.


Council members could receive the briefing in consultations and take no action, as is customary.

At the Committee level, members could hold further discussions on the PoE’s recommendations to prepare additional IANs. The PoE called for notices on best practices for member states to “promptly” submit reports as required by Council resolutions, on member states’ informing the Committee when an attempted violation of the sanctions regime comes to their attention and on clarifying language that some member states have deemed unclear concerning the freezing of designated persons’ or entities’ funds.

An additional option for the Committee is to discuss when might be a good time for its chair to brief the wider membership on the work of the Committee and PoE.

Council Dynamics

Ongoing divisions exist—particularly among the P5—on how aggressive the Council should be in implementing and tightening the sanctions against the DPRK given its continued violation of existing Council resolutions. The Council seems to have established a record whereby it adopts resolutions condemning Pyongyang’s action when it tests a nuclear device (as in 2009 and 2006) and adopting presidential statements when it undertakes a prohibited launch (as in April 2012 and in 2009). China traditionally emphasises that the Council’s responses should be proportional and is mindful that the Committee and PoE not over-reach their mandates. It prefers to take a cautious approach, considering dialogue with Pyongyang to be more effective than sanctions.

Others, including European members on the Council and the US, seek to be more proactive in ensuring the DPRK abides by its obligations under Council resolutions and that the existing sanctions regime is effectively implemented. They have generally favoured a more prescriptive approach whereby the Committee would act on the PoE’s recommendations in providing clearer guidance to member states through IANs and looking at the benefits of cooperation across other PoEs. 

On 1 January, the ROK will join the Council for a two-year term, possibly raising the profile of DPRK issues within the Council. (On 19 December, presidential elections are scheduled in the ROK. President Lee Myung-bak, who has taken what Pyongyang considers a “hostile” policy towards the DPRK during his five-year term, will leave office in February 2013.)

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UN Documents on the DPRK


Security Council Resolutions  
12 June 2012 S/RES/2050 This resolution extended the mandate of the PoE until 12 July 2013.
12 June 2009 S/RES/1874 This resolution expressed grave concern over North Korea’s 25 May nuclear test and expanded the sanctions imposed on North Korea to include all arms and related material, as well as financial transactions, technical training, advice, services or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of such arms or material.
14 October 2006 S/RES/1718 This resolution expressed grave concern over North Korea’s nuclear test, imposed sanctions and set up a sanctions committee.
Security Council Presidential Statements  
16 April 2012 S/PRST/2012/13 This statement strongly condemned the DPRK’s launch as a serious violation of resolutions 1718 and 1874, directed the Committee to take steps to update and strengthen the sanctions regime and expressed determination to act in the event of another DPRK launch or nuclear test.
Notes by the President of the Security Council  
14 June 2012 S/2012/422 This note contained the PoE’s 2012 final report.

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