DPRK (North Korea)
Expected Council Action
In November, the chair of the 1718 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Karel van Oosterom (Netherlands), is expected to provide Council members with his regular 90-day briefing on the work of the committee.
Key Recent Developments
On 17 September, the US organised an open briefing on the implementation of sanctions on the DPRK. The meeting was held amid growing tensions between the US and Russia related to the publication of the midterm report of the 1718 Committee Panel of Experts. The US has blocked the publication of the report because of what it perceives as Russian interference in the panel’s work.
During its presidency in September, the US maintained a strong emphasis on non-proliferation issues, including the DPRK. US President Donald Trump chaired the summit-level meeting on 26 September on the broader theme of countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. During the meeting, most Council members welcomed the ongoing diplomatic efforts on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, among other issues. Trump called on member states that have been violating UN sanctions on DPRK to stop. He commended the diplomatic efforts and cooperation by South Korea, China and Japan while also calling for the full commitment of Council members on the issue.
A day later, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presided over the ministerial-level meeting on efforts to denuclearise the DPRK. Pompeo stressed that the recent diplomatic breakthrough in US-DPRK relations was a direct result of the international pressure campaign, including Council sanctions on the DPRK. He cautioned Council members that enforcement of DPRK sanctions must continue until the DPRK achieves full, final and verifiable denuclearisation. On the other hand, foreign ministers Wang Yi (China) and Sergey Lavrov (Russia) emphasised that the Council should consider easing sanctions amid the current positive developments on the diplomatic front.
The third inter-Korean summit took place in Pyongyang from 18 to 20 September. DPRK leader Kim Jong-Un committed to dismantling the Dongchang-ri missile test site and launch platform, with international inspectors permitted to observe. Kim expressed a willingness to take additional measures as the US takes unspecified corresponding steps.
In early October, Pompeo travelled to Japan, South Korea and North Korea and held high-level talks with the leaders of those countries on DPRK denuclearisation efforts and arrangements for a possible second summit meeting between Trump and Kim.
Key Issues and Options
Over the course of this year, tensions on the Korean peninsula have declined significantly. Given the still volatile environment, the primary concern for the Council is maintaining stability on the peninsula. The ongoing diplomatic efforts have provided the Council with some optimism about reaching this goal. Most of the diplomatic activity continues to take place outside the Council’s purview, and the role of the Council is likely to depend on how the broader geopolitical developments play out. Taking into consideration the relative success of the recent inter-Korean and US-DPRK summits, an option for the Council is to consider a formal product encouraging further similar engagements.
An increasingly prominent issue for the Council is finding the right balance between applying sanctions and simultaneously exploring the diplomatic track. The Council could possibly consider whether a new approach towards sanctions would be appropriate in light of the relative progress in the diplomatic arena. An option for the Council is to explore ways to modify the sanctions on the DPRK to encourage further engagement on the diplomatic front.
A prevailing issue for the committee, however, remains weaknesses in the implementation of the sanctions on the DPRK. The Council could adopt an outcome urging full sanctions implementation. A related issue is the inability of Council members to reach agreement on publishing the midterm report of the Panel of Experts. Another related issue for the Council is how to preserve the independent nature of the panel and safeguard it from pressures by Council members.
Some Council members share concerns about the impact of sanctions on the humanitarian situation in the DPRK. The Council could consider working with OCHA to obtain the information it needs for humanitarian exemptions. Another option would be to consider adding to the monitoring panel assisting the committee an expert on humanitarian issues who could analyse the impact of sanctions on the civilian population.
During the first half of 2018, the Council maintained a low profile on the DPRK, letting diplomatic efforts outside the Council play out. Over the past several months, the Council has become more active in trying to address the implementation of sanctions on the DPRK and in the process exposing deep tensions among permanent members, mainly the US and Russia. The US has accused Russia of deliberately violating the sanctions on the DPRK by engaging in the illicit trade of petroleum products through ship-to-ship transfers. The tensions were further exacerbated over the midterm report of the Panel of Experts, publication of which was blocked by the US citing Russian interference allegedly to conceal its violation of the sanctions regime.
While most Council members remain cautious in their optimism about the DPRK’s denuclearisation, they continue to support diplomatic efforts between the US and the DPRK as well as between the two Koreas. Some members are starting to question whether a new approach is needed in the Council’s relationship with the DPRK, including a greater response to positive developments through Council outcomes and other possible means of showing support for serious dialogue on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Some members, such as China and Russia, are becoming increasingly interested in considering some form of sanctions relief for the DPRK. During the 27 September ministerial meeting on the DPRK, Lavrov emphasised that positive actions by the DPRK must be rewarded by the easing of sanctions and that further tightening of sanctions would have negative consequences on the humanitarian situation and other areas not related to denuclearisation. He further urged the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee to explore ways to exempt some inter-Korean joint projects from sanctions.
The US is the penholder on the DPRK, and the Netherlands chairs the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON DPRK
|Security Council Resolutions|
|21 March 2018 S/RES/2407||This was a resolution, unanimously adopted, extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts of the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee until 24 April 2019.|
|22 December 2017 S/RES/2397||This was a resolution, adopted unanimously, tightening sanctions on the DPRK.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|29 August 2017 S/PRST/2017/16||Condemned the launch of a missile over the territory of Japan and urged the DPRK to comply with previous Council resolutions and presidential statements.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|27 September 2018 S/PV.8363||This was ministerial-level meeting on denuclearization the DPRK.|
|26 September 2018 S/PV.8362||This is a summit-level meeting on countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, chaired by US President Donald Trump.|
|17 September 2018 S/PV.8353||This was an open briefing on the implementation of sanctions on the DPRK with a briefing by Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo on the recent efforts to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|14 September 2018 SC/13505||This was a press release about an update of one designated vessel on the sanctions list.|
|8 August 2018 SC/13449||This was a press release on amending one entity on the sanctions list.|
|6 August 2018 SC/13445||This was a press release on the committee’s approval of an implementation assistance notice on humanitarian exemption for the DPRK.|