DPRK (North Korea)
Expected Council Action
In February, 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. The Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the Committee is due to submit its final report under resolution 2094 by 7 February. The Committee is likely to meet at least once in February to discuss the report.
The PoE’s mandate expires on 7 April, but it is expected to be renewed in early March, with negotiations possibly starting towards the end of February.
Key Recent Developments
The Committee has held two formal meetings since the chair’s last 90-day briefing on 11 November.
On 20 December the Committee met to discuss several incident reports from the PoE:
- A report on the June 2012 attempted procurement by DPRK officials of missile technology from Ukraine concluded that the case demonstrated the need for increased vigilance regarding DPRK diplomatic personnel as called for by resolution 2094.
- A report on two separate incidents from 2009 involving interception of shipments from the DPRK to Syria of suits intended for protection against chemical weapons had no clear conclusion. The PoE was split, with two experts (China and Russia) maintaining that the suits were for defensive purposes and that the shipments therefore did not constitute a sanctions violation. (Given recent developments relating to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the case was considered particularly sensitive.)
- A report on the interception by the Republic of Korea (ROK) in July 2012 of a shipment of graphite cylinders from the DPRK on board a Chinese-operated vessel in transit in the port of Busan concluded that the shipment was a clear sanctions violation. (Such cylinders can be used in the construction of missiles.)
In a meeting on 24 January, the Committee discussed the PoE’s incident report on the Chong Chon Gang case, circulated to Council members on 23 December. (Chong Chon Gang was the DPRK-flagged ship detained by Panama on 15 July 2013 on its way from Cuba with weapons and military equipment hidden in a cargo of sugar.) The report concluded that the incident constituted a clear sanctions violation.
On 31 December, the Committee updated the consolidated sanctions list to include translation into Korean of the names of designated individuals and entities as recommended by the PoE in its 7 June 2013 report (S/2013/337).
At the time of writing it seemed the Committee was close to reaching agreement on the Implementation Assistance Notice (IAN) requested by operative paragraph 22 of resolution 2094, the so-called “catch-all” provision. (The provision calls 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.) A draft that had apparently already been agreed by China, Russia and the US, was circulated to Committee members for comments on 27 January and was expected to be put under silence for adoption in early February.
The situation on the Korean peninsula remained calm, although the 12 December execution of Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of DPRK leader Kim Jong-un, led to speculation about the stability of the Pyongyang regime. According to DPRK state media, Song-thaek, who was considered the second most powerful man in the DPRK, had been plotting a military coup and was convicted of treason by a military tribunal. His execution was seen as a sign that Kim Jong-un is continuing to consolidate power amid reports of internal divisions and competing factions in the top DPRK leadership. On 26 January it was widely reported in the media that Song-thaek’s immediate family had also been executed.
In a separate development, on 6 January ROK President Park Geun-hye proposed that the two countries resume the family reunion programme suspended since 2010. (An attempt to resume the programme in September last year failed after the DPRK accused the ROK of “reckless and vicious confrontational racket”.) The DPRK first responded negatively, but then on 16 January proposed that on the occasion of the Lunar New Year Holiday starting on 30 January the two sides take “practical measures” to halt all hostile military actions against each other, “create a climate for improved north-south relations” and “prevent a nuclear holocaust.” While the proposal also included a warning to the ROK and the US not to hold the annual joint military exercises due in February and March, the DPRK on 24 January agreed to the resumption of family reunions.
The ROK welcomed the move on family reunions, but said the military exercises would go ahead as planned and questioned the sincerity of DPRK’s invitation to improve relations. Meanwhile, the DPRK reiterated its proposal to the ROK in an open letter which was transmitted to the Council on 27 January (S/2014/53). That same day, the ROK proposed that family reunions take place between 17-22 February.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 18 December, the General Assembly adopted a resolution expressing its serious concern about the persistence of continuing reports of systematic, widespread and grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in the DPRK. It urged the government to cooperate with the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur, Marzuki Darusman, and its Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK, including by granting them access (A/RES/68/183).
Also on 18 December, Darusman and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, issued a statement urging the DPRK to immediately halt all executions. The statement—which was also endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez—came in the wake of the execution of Jang Song-thaek. The experts warned that the high-profile execution of a senior official, with total disregard for due process and other international human rights standards, was just one among multiple executions reported in the country. (The arrest, trial by a special military tribunal and execution of Jang Song-thaek all reportedly took place within only five days.)
A key issue for the Council is the DPRK’s continued flouting of all relevant resolutions.
A further issue is the lack of any progress towards restarting the six-party talks.
At the Sanctions Committee level, a key issue is the overall effective implementation of the sanctions regime. This includes the question of how to respond to the PoE’s reports of sanctions violations and whether to take up its recommendations. A related issue is the provision in paragraph 21 of resolution 2094 that directed the Committee to review and update the lists of banned items referred to in resolution 2087 no later than 7 March 2014 and on an annual basis thereafter. The provision says that if the Committee has not acted to update the lists by then, “the Security Council will complete action to update within an additional 30 days”.
The Council could invite the Committee chair to present the 90-day report in a public meeting as opposed to the current informal consultations format.
Options for the Committee include:
- making additional designations as recommended by the PoE’s 7 June 2013 report (which proposed listing four additional entities and 11 individuals);
- updating the lists of banned items and adding the items and materials proposed by the PoE;
- releasing publicly the Chong Chon Gang incident report;
- expediting the issuance of additional IANs, including those that have been proposed in response to recent sanctions violations; and
- considering the recommendations of the upcoming PoE report.
There are several proposals under consideration in the Sanctions Committee in response to the sanctions violations reported by the PoE. In relation to the Chong Chon Gang case, the US has proposed that the Committee issue an IAN and designate those found to be responsible for the violation. It has also suggested releasing publicly the incident report. While Australia, the ROK and EU Council members supported the proposals, others said they needed more time to consider the report. China and Russia already made clear that they are opposed to the release of the report, citing confidentiality concerns.
In response to the cases discussed at the 20 December meeting, the issuance of IANs was also among the possible options put forward. It seems it was agreed that the ROK would go ahead and draft an IAN on the incident involving the attempted procurement of missile technology from Ukraine. As for the case involving a Chinese-operated vessel, China is conducting its own investigation and apparently wants the Committee to hold off on any action until this has been concluded.
With regard to additional sanctions designations, it appears that some Council members have been working on putting together a package. The PoE’s upcoming report may contain additional proposals in this area, including in relation to the Chong Chon Gang case. It is therefore possible that a formal proposal for additional designations will be submitted to the Committee later this year.
The US is the penholder on the DPRK in the Council and Luxembourg chairs the Sanctions Committee.
UN Documents on the DPRK
|Security Council Resolution
|7 March 2013 S/RES/2094
|tightened sanctions against the DPRK and extended the mandate of the PoE until 7 April 2014.
|Sanctions Committee Documents
|23 December 2013 S/2013/756
|was the Sanctions Committee’s annual report.
|11 June 2013 S/2013/337
|was the PoE report to the Sanctions Committee under resolution 2050.
|26 January 2014 S/2014/53
|was the DPRK’s open letter to the ROK.
Additional Useful Resource
Fire on the City Gate: Why China Keeps North Korea Close, International Crisis Group, Asia Report No 254, 9 December 2013