May 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 May 2013
Download Complete Forecast: PDF

DPRK (North Korea)

Expected Council Action

In May, the chair of the 1718 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Sylvie Lucas (Luxembourg), is scheduled to brief Council members in consultations.

These quarterly briefings on the work of the Committee tend to be technical in nature, and no Council action is expected. The last such briefing was held on 21 February.

The final report under resolution 2050 of the Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the Committee is due on 12 May and is expected to be discussed by the Committee in late May or early June.

Key Recent Developments

In a press statement on 12 February, Council members strongly condemned the DPRK’s nuclear test that same day and said they would begin work immediately on an appropriate response.

Subsequently, on 7 March, the Council in resolution 2094 again condemned the test and reiterated its previous demands that the DPRK retract its withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and abandon all programmes aimed at developing nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missiles. It tightened some of the existing sanctions provisions against the DPRK and also imposed new measures. Additionally, it extended the mandate of the PoE (which would have expired on 12 July) until 7 April 2014 while increasing the number of experts from seven to eight. (For more details, please see our 6 March What’s in Blue story on adoption of the resolution.)

On 9 March the DPRK denounced the resolution in a letter to the Council, describing it as “clear proof that the Security Council was abused into implementing the hostile policy of the US” (S/2013/141). The launch on 11 March of the annual joint US-Republic of Korea (ROK) military training exercise in the region seemed to further aggravate the situation as tensions on the Korean Peninsula escalated.

Among a series of increasingly aggressive steps taken by the DPRK was the announcement on 11 March that it considered the 1953 armistice agreement with the ROK nullified. While the ROK said such a unilateral nullification was not allowed under international law, the DPRK in a 15 March letter to the Council insisted it was no longer bound by the agreement (S/2013/162). On 27 March, the DPRK cut a military hotline with the ROK, the last official direct link between the two countries.

On 2 April, the DPRK said it would restart its Yongbyon nuclear complex, including a plutonium reactor that was partially dismantled in 2007 as part of an agreement under the six-party talks. (These talks, stalled since 2009, involve China, the DPRK, Japan, the ROK, Russia and the US.) On 3 April, it blocked ROK workers from entering the Kaesong industrial zone, which had been seen as a symbol of Korean cooperation, and then on 9 April withdrew its own workers.

Tensions escalated further in April with the ROK warning on 7 April that the DPRK might launch a missile later that week and Pyongyang reportedly warning foreigners in the ROK on 9 April to prepare for nuclear war. The tensions seemed to subside, however, following the anniversary on 15 April of the birth of DPRK founder Kim Il-sung, with the DPRK responding to US and ROK offers for dialogue by scaling down its belligerent tone. It rejected, however, a 25 April formal ROK proposal for talks on the future of the Kaesong industrial complex amid concerns about the humanitarian situation of a group of ROK workers remaining at the complex to safeguard the facilities. Following the DPRK’s rejection of talks, the ROK announced it would withdraw its remaining workers from Kaesong. 

The DPRK Sanctions Committee has met twice since the adoption of resolution 2094. The first meeting, on 15 March, focused on technical issues related to the renewal of the PoE mandate, such as its new reporting schedule and the nomination process for its eighth member. (At press time, the Secretary-General had yet to appoint the eighth expert.) The chair transmitted the new reporting schedule to the Council on 21 March (S/2013/186).

Discussions during its second meeting, on 8 April, focused on cases of possible violations brought to the attention of the Committee. Also, it seems the Committee, with the assistance of the PoE, has started drafting the implementation assistance notice requested by the Council in resolution 2094 regarding the proper implementation of the provision in paragraph 22 that calls on states to prevent the supply to the DPRK of any item that might contribute to its nuclear or ballistic programmes and to cease other activities prohibited by relevant Council resolutions.

Human Rights-Related Developments

In a 1 February 2013 report presented to the Human Rights Council (HRC) on 11 March, Marzuki Darusman, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, provided a comprehensive review of UN documentation and resolutions on the situation of human rights in the DPRK since 2004 and identified nine patterns of human rights violations (A/HRC/22/57 of February 2013). He said many of these might amount to crimes against humanity and called for the establishment of an inquiry mechanism with adequate resources to produce a more complete picture, qualify and quantify the violations, attribute responsibility to particular perpetrators and suggest effective courses of international action.

On 21 March, the HRC adopted a resolution establishing a commission of inquiry for a period of one year comprising three members, one of whom should be the Special Rapporteur (A/HRC/RES/22/13). The commission is mandated to investigate the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the DPRK. The resolution also extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is the DPRK’s continued defiance of all relevant resolutions. A related issue is the lack of progress in the six-party talks.

A broader issue is whether a continued tightening of sanctions against the DPRK is effective in changing Pyongyang’s behaviour.

At the Committee level, a key issue is the effective implementation of the sanctions regime, in particular how to respond to violations and whether to make additional designations as directed in resolution 2094.


In the Council, one option is to change the format of the briefing by the chair of the Committee from a closed to an open meeting, as is the case for the 1737 Iran Sanctions Committee.

In the Committee, one option is to issue the implementation assistance notice called for by resolution 2094. Taking up some or all of the recommendations likely to be submitted by the PoE in May is another option, including possibly making additional designations.

Council Dynamics

 Council members were united in their support for resolution 2094. As in the past, it was first negotiated between China and the US before being presented to other Council members. Although the US did not get all of what it wanted included in the resolution, the adopted text was seen as sending a strong message, even more so with the support by China. Council members are also united in their concern about the recent escalation on the Korean Peninsula but seem hopeful that tensions have peaked.

It appears, however, that this unity does not necessarily translate into action in the DPRK Sanctions Committee. While the atmosphere in the Committee is described as constructive, recent discussions about how to respond to reports of violations were still marked by divisions between more cautious Council members who want additional information before taking any action and others who are pushing for a more proactive approach.

In the past the Committee has also been split in its response to the reports by the PoE. The 2011 report was never made public due to opposition from China. While the 2012 report was seen as more balanced, the Committee took up very few of its recommendations. It therefore remains to be seen how responsive the Committee will be to the upcoming report.

The US is the penholder on the DPRK in the Council.

Sign up for SCR emails
UN Documents on the DPRK

Security Council Resolutions
7 March 2013 S/RES/2094 This resolution tightened sanctions against the DPRK and extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 7 April 2014.
12 June 2012 S/RES/2050 This resolution extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 12 July 2013.
28 March 2013 S/2013/199 This was a letter to the Council from the Secretary-General on the re-appointment of the Panel of Experts.
21 March 2013 S/2013/186 This was a letter from the Sanctions Committee chair informing the Council of the Panel of Experts’ new reporting schedule.
15 March 2013 S/2013/162 This was a letter to the Council from the DPRK regarding  the Korean armistice agreement.
9 March 2013 S/2013/141 This was a letter to the Council from the DPRK regarding resolution 2094.
13 February 2013 S/2013/91 This was a note verbale from the DPRK on its 12 February nuclear test.
12 February 2013 SC/10912 This a Council press statement condemning the 12 February nuclear test.

Subscribe to receive SCR publications