November 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 October 2013
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DPRK (North Korea)

Expected Council Action

In November, 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 briefings tend to be procedural in nature, and no outcome is expected.

Key Recent Developments

The 1718 Sanctions Committee has held two formal meetings since the chair last briefed on 7 August. On 11 September, the Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the Committee gave an update about its on-going investigation of the incident reported by Panama on 15 July involving a DPRK-flagged ship on its way from Cuba through the Panama Canal. (Panama detained the ship, Chong Chon Gang, after weapons were discovered hidden in a cargo of sugar.) As part of the investigation, the PoE travelled to Panama in mid-August and then submitted a report to the Committee about its preliminary findings. The Committee also continued its discussion of the recommendations presented in the PoE’s 7 June final report (S/2013/337), but there was no agreement on any of these.  

In a meeting on 25 October, the Committee considered the PoE’s mid-term report which had been circulated to Council members earlier in the month. The report was mostly procedural. The Committee also continued its consideration of the Panama case with a briefing by the PoE on a trip it made to Cuba from 20 – 24 October. (A written report on the visit will soon be submitted to Council members.)

Furthermore, the Committee is continuing its work on implementation assistance notices (IANs). On 22 October, the Committee issued a revised IAN on guidelines for the preparation of national implementation reports. Work is underway on an IAN to provide guidance on the disposal of seized items and on the IAN requested by operative paragraph 22 of resolution 2094. (This paragraph called on states to prevent the supply, sale or transfer of any item that might contribute to activities prohibited under relevant Council resolutions and directed the Committee to issue an IAN regarding its proper implementation.)

On 24 September, China announced a ban on exports to the DPRK of a list of equipment and chemical substances that could be used to produce nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. It was not immediately clear whether all of the banned items are on the UN sanctions list.

While over the last few months there were some signs of improved relations on the Korean Peninsula, the DPRK maintained its antagonistic posture, and there was no reported progress towards re-launching the six-party talks with China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia and the US. There were new reports of apparent sanctions violations.

On 16 September, the DPRK and ROK reopened the jointly run Kaesong industrial complex, which is located inside the DPRK next to the border. On 21 September, however, the DPRK announced that an agreement to resume a family reunion programme suspended since 2010, would be delayed, accusing the ROK of “reckless and vicious confrontational racket”.

On 2 October, the ROK and the US announced in a joint statement that they had agreed on a new defence strategy focusing on deterrence of the DPRK nuclear threat. Meanwhile, the DPRK reacted angrily to the 10-11 October joint naval exercises off the Korean Peninsula by Japan, ROK and the US, warning of “unpredictable disaster” and noting in particular the presence of a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. It announced that its military would be put on high alert.

On 3 October, the US-Korea Institute at John Hopkins University reported further signs that the DPRK had restarted a plutonium reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex following earlier reports in August. (The DPRK announced in April that it would restart the reactor, which was partially dismantled in 2007 as part of an agreement under the six-party talks.) According to the institute, satellite imagery showing hot wastewater being discharged from the complex was most likely a sign the reactor had been restarted.

Additionally, the institute on 24 October reported increased activity at DPRK’s main underground nuclear test site, possibly indicating preparations for another nuclear test. There was also media coverage suggesting that the DPRK had learned to produce crucial components for the gas centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons, thus making the country less vulnerable to sanctions.

China appears to be pushing for the resumption of six-party talks, proposing in September an informal meeting of senior officials. While the DPRK has expressed willingness to join the talks, the US and the ROK have said they will not participate in any formal negotiations until the DPRK shows that it is sincere about dismantling its nuclear weapons programme.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 17 September, the Human Rights Council (HRC) heard a preliminary oral update from its commission of inquiry on grave violations of human rights in the DPRK, followed by an interactive dialogue. The chair, Michael Kirby, informed the HRC that the DPRK had not cooperated with the commission but that public hearings with witnesses had been held in Seoul and Tokyo. Kirby explained that the individual testimonies—including accounts of torture, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, inhuman treatment and arbitrary detention—did not represent isolated cases but rather large-scale patterns that might constitute systematic and gross human rights violations. He said the commission would seek to determine which state institutions and officials were responsible for violations proven to have been committed, adding that its final report would be presented in March 2014. At press time the commission was expected to hold public hearings in Washington, D.C. on 30 and 31 October.

Key Issues

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

A further issue is whether the time is right to restart the six-party talks.

At the Sanctions Committee level, a key issue is the overall effective implementation of the sanctions regime. 


A continuing option for the Committee is to take up some or all of the PoE’s recommendations, including possibly making additional designations. (The PoE’s report recommends the listing of additional four entities and 11 individuals.) Other recommendations include updating information on some existing listings and adding several items and materials to the list of prohibited items.

A further option is to expedite the issuance of additional IANs.

Depending on the outcome of the investigation of the Panama case, there may be additional options for the Council to consider.

Council Dynamics

The Council remains divided over the PoE’s recommendations, as China in particular continues to be cautious about any additional measures. More recently, the Panama case has been the main focus of the Committee. While at press time the PoE had yet to conclude its investigation, it was clear that some Council members intended to push for an appropriate Council response if the incident was indeed found to constitute a sanctions violation, possibly including additional listings of those identified as responsible.

Council members generally welcome the export ban announced by China as an important step towards more effective sanctions implementation. It appears some members are exploring whether this move could mean that there is some scope for expanding the list of prohibited items as recommended by the PoE.

Some Council members are apparently also considering whether the restart of the Yongbyon reactor would constitute a violation within the purview of the Council. If the restart is confirmed, some would see it as a clear violation that should be dealt with by the Council, but others are likely to argue that the activities at Yongbyon are for peaceful purposes only and fall under the mandate of the IAEA.

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

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UN Documents on the DPRK

Security Council Resolutions  

7 March 2013

This resolution imposed additional sanctions against the DPRK in response to a 12 February 2013 nuclear test.
Sanctions Committee Documents  

22 October 2013
Implementation Assistance Notice No. 2

This was the Committee’s revised guidelines for national implementation reports.

11 June 2013

This was the final report of the Panel of Experts submitted pursuant to resolution 2050 (2012).

Useful Additional Resource

Implementation Assistance Notice No. 2 (22 October 2013) was the Committee’s revised guidelines for national implementation reports.

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