Expected Council Action
In August, the chair of the 1718 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Sylvie Lucas (Luxembourg), will brief Council members in consultations on the work of the Committee. The last 90-day briefing was on 20 May.
Key Recent Developments
A series of incidents have escalated tensions on the Korean Peninsula recently. The DPRK launched a total of six short-range ballistic missiles into its eastern coastal waters on 29 June, 9 July and 13 July. It additionally fired rockets on 26 June and 2 July, followed by a barrage of approximately 100 artillery shells on 14 July aimed at waters near the eastern sea border with the Republic of Korea (ROK). Previously, on 22 May, the DPRK and ROK exchanged artillery fire along their western maritime border.
The Council discussed the ballistic missile launches under “Other Matters” following consultations on Libya on 17 July. After the meeting, in agreed-upon “elements to the press”, Council President Ambassador Richard Eugène Gasana (Rwanda) said the Council condemned the launches “as violations of Security Council resolutions” and urged the DPRK to comply with relevant Council resolutions. On 26 July, however, the DPRK launched another short-range ballistic missile.
In a 21 July letter to the Council (S/2014/512), the DPRK claimed that the launches were a “self-defensive exercise” in light of the “provocative ongoing joint military exercises by the US and South Korea” and called for an urgent Council meeting on the joint exercises. (The US and the ROK commenced an annual five-day joint naval drill on 16 July, and on 21 July, Japan, the ROK and the US began a two-day trilateral naval search-and-rescue exercise.) The DPRK previously proposed on 30 June that the ROK end drills with the US as part of a series of actions it said would reduce tensions. The ROK rejected the proposal as insincere without a commitment to nuclear disarmament by the DPRK.
Further raising concerns about its ballistic missile programme, on 29 July the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University reported that satellite images showed that the DPRK was completing improvements for firing long-range missiles and had conducted recent engine tests at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station. The DPRK previously fired a long-range ballistic missile in December 2012 from the Sohae site that reached as far as the Philippines.
The 1718 Sanctions Committee last met on 16 June. It continued its discussion of a response to the Chong Chon Gang case. (The 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 in violation of Council sanctions.) The committee also considered the 26 March launches of two medium-range Rodong ballistic missiles, along with two other incident reports. On 1 July, the Committee held an open briefing for UN member states with its Panel of Experts (PoE).
As part of the response to the Chong Chon Gang case, the US proposed at the end of May an implementation assistance notice (IAN) that would inter alia remind member states that the DPRK arms embargo includes services for the maintenance of arms or related items. The no-objection procedure for the IAN was extended seven times at China’s request as it negotiated with the US over separately proposed designations related to the case. On 28 July, the Committee adopted the IAN and added Ocean Maritime Management Company Ltd. (OMM), the operator of the Chong Chon Gang, to its consolidated sanctions list. Separately, Singapore filed criminal charges on 10 June against Singapore-based Chinpo Shipping Company Ltd., which the PoE’s final report (S/2014/147) cited for its involvement in facilitating the shipment.
In other developments, the DPRK agreed at talks with Japan in Stockholm in late May to re-investigate the cases of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea to train its spies in the 1970s and 1980s. A DPRK committee established to re-investigate the abduction cases held its first meeting on 4 July. That same day, Tokyo eased its sanctions on travel and cash transfers to the DPRK and decided to allow port calls by DPRK ships for humanitarian purposes.
A DPRK letter to the Secretary-General on 27 June (S/2014/451), which was circulated to the Council, called on the US to ban a soon-to-be released Hollywood comedy (The Interview). The movie is about a plan to assassinate Kim Jung Un; the DPRK described it as “sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the ROK on 3-4 July. Xi’s visit broke a tradition of making the DPRK the first destination for Chinese presidents on official trips to the Korean peninsula.
On 11 July, Australia, France and the US circulated a letter (S/2014/501) to Council members summarising the 17 April Arria-formula meeting on the report of the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on human rights in the DPRK (A/HRC/25/63). In the letter, the countries said the Council should formally discuss the CoI’s findings of widespread and systematic human rights violations and consider how to hold those responsible accountable.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 28 March, the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted resolution 25/25 welcoming the final report of the CoI and extending for another year the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, Marzuki Darusman. The resolution also asked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to establish a field-based structure to strengthen monitoring of the situation of human rights in the DPRK. (On 28 May, after consultations between member states and OHCHR, the ROK announced that it would host a field-based structure to build on the CoI’s work.)
Darusman presented his next report to the HRC (A/HRC/26/43) on 18 June. He emphasised the international law implications of the CoI’s findings and highlighted in particular the conclusion that in light of the manifest failure of the DPRK to protect its population from crimes against humanity, the international community, through the UN, bears this responsibility. (The CoI had found that it had reasonable grounds to conclude that crimes against humanity continue and that they have been taking place for decades in the DPRK.) He also highlighted opportunities for engagement with the DPRK and presented key elements of a strategy to address the issue of international abductions and enforced disappearances.
Following the 1 May review of the DPRK, the HRC’s working group of the Universal Periodic Review adopted its report on 6 May. The DPRK rejected 83 recommendations, including those pertaining to the cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and to the implementation of the CoI’s recommendations. Another 185 recommendations will be examined by the government before September (A/HRC/WG.6/19/L.18).
A key issue will be how to address the DPRK’s recent series of short-range ballistic missile launches.
An expected issue for discussion is the Committee’s recently agreed-to response to the Chong Chon Gang case.
Improving member states’ implementation of the sanctions is an ongoing issue.
The Committee or Council could:
- send a letter to the DPRK attaching the incident report on the 26 March mid-range ballistic range launches, updated to include addendums on the late June/July launches, and request the DPRK’s response; or
- reconsider the PoE’s recommendations for designations in its incident report on the 26 March ballistic missile launches in light of the more recent ballistic missile launches.
On the CoI report, while it is not part of the non-proliferation agenda under which the DPRK is considered, members could use the consultations to again raise the report’s recommendations or ideas discussed at the Arria-formula meeting to:
- sanction key offenders for violating human rights in the DPRK;
- request regular briefings by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in the DPRK; and
- refer the situation in the DPRK to the International Criminal Court.
While most Council members in the 20 May briefing called for a strong response to the Chong Chon Gang case and the 26 March ballistic missile launches, China and Russia urged caution, warning of the risk of escalating tensions with the DPRK. The US applied heavy pressure to get China to agree to the recent designation of OMM. On the 26 March mid-range missile tests, China has been more obstinate, rebuffing the initial US push for a presidential statement and rejecting as too sensitive the individuals and entity that the PoE recommended for sanctions. For now, the committee is considering sending the DPRK a letter with the PoE’s conclusions that the launches violated sanctions and requesting its response.
China, however, has exerted much effort to dissuade the DPRK from conducting a fourth nuclear test, and in the last two months concerns over a new nuclear test have subsided.
On the human rights situation, Council members urge action, but they consider it unlikely that much can be agreed to in the Council due to opposition by China and possibly Russia. (Neither country attended the Arria-formula meeting on the CoI report.)
The US is the penholder on the DPRK.
UN Documents on the DPRK
|Security Council Resolution|
|5 March 2014 S/RES/2141||This resolution extended until 5 April 2015 the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee.|
|21 July 2014 S/2014/512||This was a letter from the DPRK in response to the Council’s 17 July press elements condemning recent ballistic missile launches.|
|11 July 2014 S/2014/501||This letter from Australia, France and the US summarised the Council’s Arria-formula meeting on the CoI report on human rights in DPRK.|
|27 June 2014 S/2014/451||This DPRK letter to the Secretary-General called for the US to ban a soon-to-be released Hollywood comedy (The Interview).|
|6 March 2014 S/2014/147||This was the final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee.|
|7 February 2014 A/HRC/25/63||This was the report from the international commission of inquiry established by the Human Rights Council.|