May 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 May 2015
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ASIA

DPRK (North Korea)

Expected Council Action

In May, the chair of the 1718 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain), is due to brief Council members in consultations on the work of the Committee.  

Key Recent Developments

Since the Committee chair’s last briefing on 26 February, the DPRK has conducted several short-range missile launches in violation of Council resolutions. On 2 March, it launched two Scud-type ballistic missiles into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The launch coincided with the start of the US-Republic of Korea (ROK) annual joint military exercises, Foal Eagle and Key Resolve. (Key Resolve, a defence exercise, ended on 13 March, whereas Foal Eagle, a series of joint field-training exercises, ended on 24 April.) In a 1 March statement transmitted to the Council on 3 March, the DPRK’s Korean People’s Army condemned the exercises as “dangerous nuclear war drills” aimed at invading the country and said it was fully ready to strike back. The statement also warned that the DPRK would further bolster its weapons to annihilate the enemy.

On 12 March, according to ROK officials, the DPRK fired another seven missiles off its eastern coast. On 7 April, it fired two missiles off its western coast, two days ahead of a visit to the ROK by the US Secretary of Defense, Ashton B. Carter. According to a New York Times article, a US official commenting on the launches said the US believed the DPRK nuclear threat was growing. 

Through resolution 2207 adopted on 4 March, the Council extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee until 5 April 2016. Closely following the language of the previous mandate renewal in resolution 2141, it asked the Panel to provide a midterm report to the Committee by 5 August 2015 and a final report no later than 5 February 2016. In a 30 March letter, the Secretary-General informed the Council that he had appointed the eight members of the new Panel, seven of whom had served on the previous panel. (The only new expert was Jiahu Zong, a Chinese national.) Hugh Griffiths (UK) was reappointed as the coordinator. 

DPRK has continued to experience severe humanitarian challenges. On 8 April, the UN Resident Coordinator for the DPRK, Ghulam Isaczai, announced that the UN urgently needed $111 million to fund its humanitarian operations in the DPRK in 2015 and characterised the DPRK as a silent and underfunded humanitarian situation. According to the latest assessment by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 18 million people, or approximately 70 percent of the population, are considered food insecure, and the chronic malnutrition rate among children under five is 27.9 percent. 

Developments in the Sanctions Committee

The Sanctions Committee met on 20 April. (It had not met since 11 February; a meeting scheduled in March was cancelled due to a lack of interpretation.) The Committee first discussed the 2 March missile launches, but views differed on how to respond. It was proposed that the launches should be included in an addendum to the Panel of Experts’ final report under its previous mandate.

Committee members also considered the recommendations from that report, which focused in particular on how to counter sanctions evasion by Ocean Maritime Management Company (OMM), the entity that was designated by the Sanctions Committee on 28 July 2014 for its involvement in the Chong Chon Gang case. (Chong Chon Gang was the ship that was intercepted by Panama in July 2013 on its way from Cuba to the DPRK with weapons concealed in a cargo of sugar.) It was agreed that discussion of the recommendations would continue in informal consultations in the following weeks.  The Committee also discussed a letter from Mexico requesting guidance regarding the vessel Mu Du Bong which has been held in the Mexican port of Tuxpan after it ran aground in the Gulf of Mexico last July. According to the Panel of Experts, the ship is owned by OMM, but the DPRK has denied this and has accused Mexico of illegally detaining it.

The last agenda item was the review and updating of the lists of sanctioned individuals and entities as well as prohibited items. (In resolution 2094 the Council directed the Committee to review and update the list of prohibited items on an annual basis, and the Committee guidelines call for the targeted sanctions list to be continuously reviewed and regularly updated.)   

Human Rights-Related Developments

During its 28th session in March, the Human Rights Council (HRC) considered the report of the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, Marzuki Darusman, which proposed a strategy for addressing the issue of international abductions and enforced disappearances. The report also noted that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is finalising arrangements to open the field-based office in the ROK assigned to strengthen the monitoring and documentation of the human rights situation in the DPRK as provided for in HRC resolution 25/25.

On 27 March, the HRC adopted a resolution submitted by Japan and the EU that condemns the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations and other human rights abuses committed in the DPRK. It also expresses grave concern at the detailed findings made by the commission of inquiry in its report, urges the government of the DPRK to implement the report’s recommendations and expresses deep concern at the commission’s findings concerning the situation of refugees and asylum seekers who have been returned to the DPRK to face punishment, including internment; torture; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; sexual violence; enforced disappearance; or the death penalty. It also welcomed the Security Council’s 22 December meeting on the human rights situation in the DPRK and looked forward to the Council’s continued engagement. The resolution was adopted by 27 votes in favour, six votes against (including Security Council members China, Russia and Venezuela) and 14 abstentions.

Key Issues

A key issue for the Council is the DPRK’s continued flouting of all relevant resolutions and its apparent rejection of any dialogue aimed at denuclearisation.        

An additional issue, following the placement of the situation in the DPRK on the Council’s agenda in December 2014, is what kind of action the Council should consider on the human rights situation in the DPRK. 

At the Sanctions Committee level, a key issue is the implementation of the Panel of Experts’ recommendations. 

Options

One option for the Council would be to issue a statement following the Committee chair’s briefing, condemning the DPRK’s recent missile launches and other violations, urging Pyongyang to demonstrate commitment to the dismantling of its nuclear programme and to return to the six-party talks involving China, Japan, the ROK, Russia and the US and calling on the Sanctions Committee and member states to implement the recommendations of the Panel of Experts.

For the Committee, the main option is to implement the relevant recommendations of the Panel of Experts’ report, which includes designating additional individuals and entities, updating the sanctions list to include entities controlled by OMM and issuing additional guidance related to the Chong Chon Gang incident, possibly in the form of an implementation assistance notice to clarify implementation of the assets freeze. 

Council and Sanctions Committee Dynamics

Discussions at the 20 April Committee meeting followed traditional dividing lines among Council members. China and Russia, with the support of Venezuela, continued to advocate for a cautious approach, favouring dialogue and consultation and stressing the need for all sides to exercise restraint, avoid confrontation and create “favourable conditions” for the resumption of six-party talks. It seems they also suggested that the US-ROK joint military exercises could be considered a provocation and saw no need for the Committee to take any action in response to the DPRK’s recent missile launches. By contrast, the P3 and like-minded elected members such as Lithuania and New Zealand stressed that the launches defied the authority of the Council, with some also expressing concern they might be followed by more serious violations. The US refuted the accusations concerning the joint military exercises, citing the fact that the exercises had been going on for 15 years. 

Views among Council members also differed on the Panel’s findings. While several members strongly supported the recommendations relating to the OMM, others argued that they must be studied more closely, in particular to verify the alleged links between the OMM and the entities proposed by the Panel for inclusion on the sanctions list. On the question of whether vessels are economic assets, there was a suggestion to use the guidelines developed by the 1267 Committee. (An explanatory note on the assets freeze posted on that Committee’s website on 24 February confirms that vessels should be considered an economic asset.) It seems China and Russia argued, however, that these guidelines could not automatically be applied in the case of the DPRK and that further consideration was needed. Similar differences were also reflected in the discussions about the Mexican request for guidance in the Mu Du Bong case. At press time, the Committee had yet to agree on a response. 

With regard to the six-party talks, media outlets reported in March that China, Japan, Russia, the ROK and the US had agreed on conditions for the resumption of the talks to present to Pyongyang, but there was apparently no reference to any such developments in recent Council discussions.

The US is the penholder on the DPRK.

UN Documents  

Security Council Resolution
4 March 2015 S/RES/2207 extended until 5 April 2016 the Panel of Experts’ mandate.
Security Council Meeting Record
22 December 2014 S/PV.7353 was the meeting on the human rights situation in the DPRK. 
Other
30 March 2015 S/2015/223 was the Secretary-General’s letter on the appointment of the new Panel of Experts.
23 March 2015 A/HRC/28/L.18 was the draft resolution on the DPRK adopted by the HRC on 27 March.
18 March 2015 A/HRC/28/71 was the report by the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK.
3 March 2015 S/2015/156 was the DPRK letter on the US-ROK joint military exercises.
27 March 2015 S/2015/131 was the final report from the Panel of Experts under resolution 2141.