DPRK (North Korea)
Expected Council Action
In March, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing for 13 months the mandate of the Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the 1718 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee.
Also in March, the Committee is due to update the lists of banned items as required by resolution 2094, which directs it to review and update the lists of sanctioned items by 7 March 2014 and on an annual basis thereafter. (If the Committee fails to update the lists by then, the Council will have to take action within an additional 30 days.)
Key Recent Developments
The PoE’s final report under resolution 2094 was circulated to Council members on 10 February. The report confirms that the DPRK is continuing to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and describes in detail the types of techniques used to evade sanctions and recent violations, including the Chong Chon Gang case. (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 PoE submitted an incident report on 23 December concluding that the case constituted a sanctions violation.) Recommendations focus on measures to improve sanctions implementation, such as the issuance of Implementation Assistance Notices (IANs) by the Sanctions Committee.
On 20 February, the chair of the Committee, Ambassador Sylvie Lucas (Luxembourg), briefed Council members in consultations on its work. The Committee then met on 24 February for an initial exchange of views on the PoE’s report and also discussed possible measures in response to the Chong Chon Gang case.
On 7 February, the Committee adopted the IAN requested by 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.) It was posted on the Committee’s website on 13 February.
Relations between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the DPRK seemed to improve. On 5 February the two countries agreed to hold family reunions at the Diamond Mountain resort inside the DPRK from 20 to 25 February. On 12 February, the countries held their first high-level meeting in seven years, apparently at the suggestion of Pyongyang. The meeting took place in the Panmunjom truce village on the border between the two countries and covered a range of issues, including the family reunion programme. There was speculation that the DPRK was trying to demonstrate progress in its relations with the ROK in order to please China and secure an invitation to Beijing for its leader Kim Jong-un to strengthen his authority.
Meanwhile, the DPRK continued to protest the annual joint ROK-US military exercises underway in February. It sent a letter to the Council on 7 February condemning the exercises and threatening to call off the family reunions unless the exercises were cancelled (S/2014/84). It complained in particular that the ROK had allowed US nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to fly off the west coast of the Korean peninsula. Despite these threats, however, the DPRK agreed to allow the family reunions to go ahead as planned.
In a further sign of the easing of tensions between the two countries, the ROK on 21 February was reported to have approved a shipment of medicine and powdered milk for the DPRK and promised more humanitarian aid. It also offered to assist the DPRK with an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in pigs.
On 14 February, US Secretary of State John Kerry held meetings in Beijing with top Chinese officials and discussed, among other things, the situation on the Korean peninsula. Following the meetings, Kerry said that China “could not have more forcefully reiterated its commitment” to the goal of denuclearising the DPRK. He also stated that China had indicated its willingness to take additional steps to push the DPRK to halt its nuclear programme.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 17 February, Michael Kirby, the chair of the international commission of inquiry on human rights in the DPRK, and Marzuki Darusman, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK and also a member of the commission, held a press conference in Geneva for the launch of the commission’s report released that same day (A/HRC/25/63 and A/HRC/25/CRP.1). The commission found that crimes against humanity had been committed and continue to take place. These crimes, which arise from policies established at the highest level, entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions, persecution, the forcible transfer of populations, enforced disappearances and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.
In a letter sent on 20 January to Kim Jong-un, the commission drew attention to the principle of command and superior responsibility under international criminal law. The commission informed Kim that officials of several governmental agencies had been committing crimes against humanity and added that it was “open to inference that the officials [were] in some instances acting under [his] personal control.”
The commission urged the UN Secretariat and agencies to adopt a system-wide strategy under the recently launched “Rights up Front” approach, including the possibility of the Secretary-General bringing the situation to the attention of the Security Council. The commission recommended that the Security Council refer the situation in the DPRK to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and impose targeted individual sanctions against those most responsible but stressed that it did not support sanctions that would target the population or the economy as a whole.
The commission will present its findings to the Human Rights Council on 17 March, during its 25th session.
On 18 February, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on the international community “to use all the mechanisms at its disposal to ensure accountability, including referral to the ICC.”
A key issue for the Council is the renewal of the PoE’s mandate.
A further issue is the report from the international commission of inquiry and whether it will be formally brought to the Council’s attention.
An ongoing key issue is the DPRK’s continued flouting of all relevant Council resolutions.
At the Sanctions Committee level, a key issue in March is whether to take up any of the PoE’s latest recommendations.
The main option for the Council is to adopt a resolution extending the PoE’s mandate for another 13 months. It could also stress the importance of taking into consideration the need for broad geographic representation when selecting the experts.
Another option would be to organise an Arria formula meeting with members of the commission of inquiry.
A further option would be to refer the situation in the DPRK to the ICC.
Options for the Committee include:
- implementing the PoE’s recommendations;
- making additional designations;
- updating the lists of banned items as required by resolution 2094;
- releasing publicly the Chong Chon Gang incident report; and
- expediting the issuance of additional IANs, including those that have been proposed in response to recent sanctions violations.
The PoE mandate renewal is expected to be a technical rollover and should therefore not be controversial. (The US circulated a draft resolution to Council members on 26 February.) It appears that some discussions have already taken place with regard to the selection of experts and there are expectations that the more transparent and merit-based procedures that the Secretariat has used in other sanctions regimes will also apply in the case of the DPRK.
With regard to the work of the international commission of inquiry, although not directly related to the work of the Sanctions Committee, most Council members referred to the commission’s findings at the 20 February informal consultations. They emphasised that the DPRK’s human rights violations represent yet another example of Pyongyang’s complete disregard for international law and indicated that the situation should be dealt with by the Council. China on the other hand, who has publicly criticised the commission’s report, stressed the need for dialogue. No further discussions are expected in New York, however, until the Human Rights Council has considered the commission’s findings.
Discussions on how to respond to the Chong Chon Gang case have continued to focus on the three measures proposed earlier by the US and supported by most Council members: issuing an IAN, designating those found to be involved in the sanctions violations and publicly releasing the PoE’s incident report. During the 24 February committee meeting, the US presented in more detail the main elements of the proposed IAN. Council members also discussed possible designations. It appears that the PoE’s report, in a confidential annex, contains proposals for two designations related to the Chong Chon Gang case and many members expressed initial support for these proposals. As for publicly releasing the incident report, it seems that China and Russia remain opposed and it is therefore unlikely to happen.
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
|This resolution tightened sanctions against the DPRK and extended the mandate of the PoE until 7 April 2014.
|Sanctions Committee Document
|7 June 2013 S/2013/337
|This was the final report of the PoE submitted pursuant to resolution 2050.
|7 February 2014 A/HRC/25/63
|This was the report from the international commission of inquiry.
|7 February 2014 S/2014/84
|This was a letter to the Council from the DPRK.
Additional Useful Resource
Implementation Assistance Notice No. 4 (7 February 2014) was on the proper implementation of paragraph 22 of resolution 2094.