August 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 August 2013
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ASIA

DPRK (North Korea)

Expected Council Action

In August, 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 16 May.

Key Recent Developments

After a series of aggressive steps taken by the DPRK, some positive signs were visible recently on reviving bilateral and multilateral talks. On 22 May, the DPRK sent a special envoy to China, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, in an apparent bid to mend the increasingly strained relations between the two countries. According to official media reports in China, Choe delivered a hand-written letter from DPRK leader Kim Jong-un to President Xi Jinping stating that the DPRK was willing “to make joint efforts with all interested parties to appropriately resolve related issues through multilateral dialogue and consultations like the six-party talks and maintain peace and stability on the peninsula”. These talks, stalled since 2009, involve the DPRK, the Republic of Korea (ROK), China, Japan, Russia and the US.

On 7 June, the DPRK restored an International Committee of the Red Cross ho tline with the ROK. On 6 June the DPRK proposed to hold bilateral talks with the ROK—for the first time since 2008—on reopening the Kaesong industrial complex, a jointly operated industrial zone closed since April. The talks were called off, however, when the two sides were unable to agree on the diplomatic ranks of their delegations. Also in June, both countries sent envoys to China to further discuss the regional tensions and possible resumption of bilateral and multilateral negotiations.

On 16 June, the DPRK announced that it was ready to hold high-level talks with the US on relieving tensions and removing nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula. A spokesperson for the DPRK National Defence Commission said that the US could choose the time and place for such talks. The US responded by saying that it is open to negotiations but only if the DPRK is genuinely willing to comply with Council resolutions and accept eventual denuclearisation.

On 15 July, Panama detained a DPRK-flagged ship, the Chong Chon Gang, on its way through the Panama Canal from Cuba after weapons were discovered hidden in a cargo of sugar. While the DPRK demanded the ship’s immediate release, Cuba issued a statement in which it said that the ship was transporting 240 metric tons of obsolete Soviet defensive weapons, including two anti-aircraft missile complexes, nine missiles in parts and spares, two MiG-21 airplanes and 15 motors for such planes. All were to be repaired and returned to Cuba. According to Cuba, they were being repaired to “maintain our defensive capacity in order to preserve national sovereignty”. Resolution 1718 says that states “shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer” to DPRK of combat aircraft and missile systems.

Panama pressed criminal charges against the 35 crew members of the ship for endangering public security by illegally transporting war material and invited the UN to participate in further investigation. The Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the 1718 Sanctions Committee is expected to travel to Panama and to report to the Committee on its findings in a few weeks.

The latest PoE report was circulated to Council members in mid-May and published in June (S/2013/337). The report concludes that the DPRK is continuing to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes but that the sanctions are having an impact and are causing significant slowdowns. In particular, the report notes that the financial sanctions measures appear to be effective.

The report lists a number of alleged sanctions violations committed by the DPRK, including a shipment of missile-related items bound for Syria, seized in May 2012. It also notes that the DPRK continues to violate sanctions banning the import of luxury goods. The report calls for four entities and 11 individuals to be added to the sanctions list. Other recommendations for the Committee include updating information on several existing listings and adding several items and materials to the sanctions regime, such as high-strength aluminium alloy.

The DPRK Sanctions Committee recently met twice to discuss the latest PoE report. On 31 May the PoE officially presented the report for the Committee’s preliminary discussion. On 1 July the Committee met again to discuss the recommendations contained in the report. It seems that two permanent members signalled that they will not support further listings at this time. Committee members also disagreed about possibly adding certain items and materials to the list of banned products. Consensus may yet be reachable on the recommendation pertaining to updating information on current listed individuals and entities. At press time, the Committee was scheduled to meet again on 31 July to further discuss the recommendations.

The Committee continues to work on the issuance of implementation assistance notices. A notice on guidelines for the implementation of measures regarding luxury goods was issued on 25 June by the Committee. Guidelines for national implementation reports were drafted and put under silence procedure, but a permanent member broke silence, claiming that the table of reporting is too lengthy. A notice on the supply, sale or transfer of items that contribute to the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programmes has yet to be discussed in the Committee.

The Secretary-General appointed the eighth and final member of the PoE—Neil Watts (South Africa), an expert on maritime transportation—on 21 June.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 30 May, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK expressed extreme concern about the well-being of nine North Korean defectors, mostly minors, who were reportedly arrested by Laos while crossing the Laos-China border and were subsequently sent back to China on 27 May. The rapporteur urged China not to repatriate the defectors, warning that they could face persecution or severe punishment in the DPRK. The High Commissioner for Human Rights said the following day that the group had been returned to the DPRK and urged the DPRK government to give independent actors access to them to verify their status. During a press conference in New York on 21 June, DPRK Ambassador Sin Son-ho described the group as boys and girls who had been abducted by ROK human-trafficking agents. (The defectors appeared on DPRK TV in late June and also claimed they had been abducted.)

In July, the commission of inquiry established by the Human Rights Council in March (A/HRC/RES/22/13) to investigate human rights violations in the DPRK began its operations. It comprises Michael Kirby (Australia) and Sonja Biserko (Serbia), who were both appointed on 7 May.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is the DPRK’s continued flouting of all relevant resolutions.

An important issue is the lack of progress in the six-party talks, despite recent seemingly positive signals from the DPRK.

At the Committee level, a key issue is the effective implementation of the sanctions regime, as well as accepting the PoE recommendations.

Options

One option is to discuss the latest alleged sanctions violation in Panama—in the Council or the Committee—pending the forthcoming report of the PoE and to follow up, possibly by issuing a statement or by requesting clarifications from Cuba and the DPRK.

Taking up some or all of the recommendations submitted by the PoE is another option for the Committee, including possibly making additional designations.

Council Dynamics

Council members view the recent political messages from Pyongyang—after a period of heightened tensions—as a positive sign. Therefore, it appears the key players are not eager to emphasise the importance of the seizure of the DPRK ship, in an attempt to continue to work towards resuming bilateral and multilateral talks with the DPRK.

After reaching consensus in March to take a more aggressive approach towards the DPRK’s defiance of Council sanctions, in particular its nuclear and missile testing, it seems that some Council members are not inclined to further tighten sanctions and apply more political pressure on the DPRK at this time.

The Sanctions Committee seems split in its response to the latest report by the PoE. While it is possible that the Committee will be able to reach a consensus on accepting some of the report’s recommendations, the current objection of some Council members to most recommendations—including new listings—may impair reaching a consensus on most of these. 

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

UN DOCUMENTS ON THE DPRK

Security Council Resolutions
7 March 2013 S/RES/2094 This resolution imposed additional sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in response to a 12 February 2013 nuclear test.
Security Council Letters
21 June 2013 S/2013/369 This letter from the Secretary-General concerned the appointment of an expert to the 1718 DPRK sanctions committee.
28 March 2013 S/2013/199 This was a letter from the Secretary-General on the re-appointment of the Panel of Experts.
Sanctions Committee Documents
11 June 2013 S/2013/337 This was the final report of the Panel of Experts submitted pursuant to resolution 2050 (2012).
25 June 2013 Implementation Assistance Notice No. 3 This was the Committee’s guidelines for the implementation of measures regarding luxury goods.