DPRK (North Korea)
Expected Council Action
In November, 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 Committee’s work.
In addition, it is possible that the Council will adopt a resolution in response to the DPRK’s 9 September nuclear test.
Key Recent Developments
In the period since the chair’s last briefing on 30 August, the DPRK has maintained its defiant posture, while continuing to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.
On 5 September, the DPRK successfully test-fired three mid-range Rodong missiles. In response, Council members held consultations on 6 September and in a subsequent press statement strongly condemned the DPRK’s actions as a grave violation of Council resolutions. They expressed “serious concern” that the DPRK had conducted the launches “in flagrant disregard” of the Council’s repeated statements. Moreover, they called on member states to redouble their efforts to fully implement sanctions, in particular the new measures in resolution 2270. (This was the resolution adopted on 2 March in response to the DPRK’s fourth nuclear test.) They also directed the Sanctions Committee to intensify its work to strengthen enforcement of the resolution and assist member states to comply with their obligations, while calling on states to report on implementation as soon as possible. Finally, members expressed their commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution through dialogue but warned of “further significant measures in line with the Council’s previously expressed determination.”
The DPRK protested the press statement in an 8 September letter to the Secretary-General, affirming its intention to continue to bolster its nuclear force. The following day, 9 September, it conducted a fifth nuclear test, its most powerful so far. Council members again held urgent consultations and, in a press statement strongly condemning the test as a clear threat to international peace and security, expressed their intention to immediately start work on a resolution imposing “appropriate measures under Article 41”. In a 9 September letter to the Council president, the Republic of Korea (ROK) also called for tougher sanctions against the DPRK.
On 14 and 20 October, the DPRK made failed attempts to launch an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Musudan. The Musudan has a range of between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres, enough to reach US military bases on the island of Guam. Council members condemned the first launch in a 17 October press statement, which closely followed the language of the 6 September statement. They reiterated their intention to closely monitor the situation and take further significant measures. The DPRK is reported to have conducted eight Musudan launches this year, but according to the ROK and the US only one—in June—was successful. So far this year, the DPRK has conducted a total of 24 ballistic missile launches.
Meanwhile, media reports seem to indicate that countries are responding to the Council’s call for more rigorous sanctions implementation. Recent examples include the freezing of a bank account in Belarus found to have been used to violate the sanctions measures and Uganda’s announcement that it has terminated all of its police-related cooperation with the DPRK and is considering whether to suspend all remaining military cooperation. Also, according to one report, 69 DPRK-owned vessels have been de-registered, as called for in resolution of 2270.
In a related development, the US on 26 September announced the imposition of DPRK-related sanctions against a Chinese company and four of its executives. The entity, Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Company Ltd, was designated for acting for or on behalf of the Korea Kwangsong Banking Corporation, a DPRK-based business that was listed by the Council in resolution 2270.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 9 September, the High Commissioner for Human Rights designated two independent human rights experts, Sonja Biserko and Sara Hossain, to support the work of the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, Tomás Ojea Quintana. The appointment was made in accordance with Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution 31/18 adopted on 23 March, which requested the High Commissioner to designate, for a period of six months, a maximum of two independent experts to support the work of the special rapporteur, with a focus on accountability for human rights violations, in particular where such violations amount to crimes against humanity, and to recommend practical mechanisms of accountability to secure truth and justice for victims, including through the ICC. The report of the independent experts will be presented to the HRC in March 2017.
Meanwhile, at the time of writing, the special rapporteur was scheduled to present his latest report to the General Assembly in the Third Committee on 27 October. The Committee is scheduled to vote in November on its annual resolution on the human rights situation in the DPRK. The resolution is expected to once again call on the Security Council to take appropriate action to ensure accountability for human rights violations.
The fundamental issue for the Council is how to respond to the clear and growing threat to international peace and security posed by the DPRK as Pyongyang continues to develop the country’s nuclear and ballistic-missile capabilities in direct defiance of the Council’s demands.
A related issue is whether the tightening of sanctions will achieve the stated objectives of preventing the DPRK from making further progress and inducing Pyongyang to engage with the international community, or whether a different approach is needed.
A continuing issue is the importance of ensuring effective sanctions implementation by all member states, while avoiding adverse humanitarian consequences or negative effects on legitimate livelihood activities, as specified in resolution 2270.
The main option for the Council is to adopt a resolution to further strengthen sanctions against the DPRK. This could include removing some of the exemptions to the existing provisions and imposing new measures, such as restrictions on the sale of oil to the DPRK, additional measures targeting DPRK diplomats, a ban on remittances to the DPRK from labour exports and restricting the DPRK’s textile exports. It could also include additional listings.
A further option would be to begin raising the issue of possibly suspending the DPRK’s UN membership in accordance with Article 5 of the UN Charter, which states that a member may be suspended from “the rights and privileges of membership by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council”.
With regard to the chair’s briefing, the Council could decide to hold it in a public meeting, perhaps followed by consultations, to provide a forum for Council members to publicly express their concerns about the DPRK’s actions and remind member states about the importance of implementing resolution 2270.
At the Committee level, the main option is to work closely with the Panel of Experts to assist states in implementing new sanctions measures and providing additional guidance, when needed, without delay.
Council and Wider Dynamics
At press time, negotiations on a draft resolution in response to the DPRK’s 9 September nuclear test were underway, but still involving mostly bilateral discussions between China and the US. The US has also been working closely with Japan and the ROK, including a visit by Ambassador Samantha Power (US) to Tokyo and Seoul from 7 to 10 October. Since the nuclear test, the three countries have repeatedly declared their intention to seek a resolution imposing “the strongest possible measures” against the DPRK and to strengthen unilateral measures as well.
Few details have emerged from the negotiations so far, but the focus seems to be on closing some of the loopholes in resolution 2270 by removing exemptions, such as those allowing the DPRK to export coal and iron ore if the transactions are determined to be exclusively for livelihood purposes. (According to some reports, there has been an increase in the DPRK’s export of coal since the resolution was adopted.) During her visit to the region, Power confirmed that closing loopholes was a priority, and described the negotiations as intense.
Although China condemned the DPRK’s nuclear test and has expressed its support for further measures, it remains to be seen how far it is willing to go. It strongly opposes, along with Russia, the deployment in the ROK of the US’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system, which the ROK and the US recently said would move forward without delay. In Council discussions, both China and Russia have characterised the deployment as a provocation. In response to a recent joint ROK-US naval exercise, China once again called on the two countries not to raise tensions in the region.
In terms of overall Council dynamics, it seems that Russia has signalled that it wants to be more involved in the initial negotiations than was the case in the past.
The US is the penholder on the DPRK.
|Security Council Resolution|
|2 March 2016 S/RES/2270||imposed additional sanctions on the DPRK.|
|Security Council Letters|
|9 September 2016 S/2016/775||was the ROK letter calling for tougher sanctions.|
|8 September 2016 S/2016/771||was the DPRK letter rejecting the Council’s 6 September press statement.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|17 October 2016 SC/12557||condemned the 14 October failed missile launch.|
|9 September 2016 SC/12513||condemned the 9 September nuclear test.|
|6 September 2016 SC/12509||condemned the 5 September missile launches.|
|26 September 2016 A/71/402||was the report of the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK.|