What's In Blue

DPRK: Adoption of New Sanctions Resolution

This afternoon, the US was hoping to put into blue a draft resolution that will impose new sanctions and tighten some of the existing measures against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), in response to its 6 January nuclear test and 7 February satellite launch. At press time, however, Russia had broken silence, and it was unclear if adoption would be tomorrow as proposed by the US, or early next week.

As in the past, the draft resolution was first negotiated between China and the US before being presented to the other Council members during consultations on 25 February. If adopted, this will be the fifth round of sanctions imposed against the DPRK since 2006. It took longer to negotiate than any of the previous resolutions – seven weeks as opposed to less than four weeks following the DPRK’s last nuclear test in 2013 – reflecting the need to bridge the traditional divisions in approach between China and the US, as well as the complexity of the new measures.

It seems that Council members’ initial reactions to the draft were generally very positive, although there were some questions regarding the practical implementation of some of the measures and the impact on the diplomatic community in Pyongyang. In light of the DPRK’s recent serious provocations and continuing defiance of previous resolutions, members appear firmly behind the proposed measures. Overall, the proposed draft is seen as a very strong text and tougher than many had expected. With regard to the timing of the adoption, it seems that the US is keen to move as quickly as possible, arguing that it is important not to allow any time for the DPRK to take precautionary action before the new measures take effect.

The proposed draft resolution condemns in the strongest terms the DPRK’s 6 January nuclear test “in violation and flagrant disregard of the Council’s relevant resolutions” and further condemns the 7 February satellite launch. It reiterates the Council’s previous demands that the DPRK abandon all nuclear weapons and other nuclear programmes as well as weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes.

The draft significantly expands the sanctions regime against the DPRK by adding so-called sectoral measures, imposing a ban on all exports from the DPRK of coal, iron, iron ore, gold, titanium ore, vanadium ore and rare earth metals, and banning the supply to the DPRK of all types of aviation fuel, including rocket fuel.

Moreover, while the Council had previously, in resolution 2094, obligated states to inspect cargo to and from the DPRK if they had reason to believe that it contained prohibited items, the proposed new resolution requires states to inspect all cargo. It also bans leasing or chartering of vessels or airplanes and providing crew services to the DPRK, and registering vessels in the DPRK, while calling on states to de-register any DPRK-owned or -controlled vessels. Additionally, it decides that states shall ban any flights and deny entry into their ports of any vessel suspected of carrying prohibited items.

The draft broadens the scope of the financial sanctions by imposing an asset freeze on all funds and other economic resources owned or controlled by the DPRK government or by the Worker’s Party of Korea, if found to be associated with its nuclear or ballistic missile programme or any other prohibited activities. Moreover, the text tightens existing financial restrictions by banning the opening and operation of any offices of DPRK banks abroad, as well as the opening of new offices of foreign financial institutions in the DPRK under all circumstances – not only if there are grounds to believe that their activities could contribute to prohibited programmes, unless approved by the Sanctions Committee in advance.

The proposed draft also broadens the scope of the arms embargo to include small arms, which had previously been excluded, and clarifies that the embargo includes the transfer of arms for repair and servicing, which is in line with a recommendation made by the Panel of Experts assisting the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee. It includes a new “catch-all” provision that imposes a ban on the transfer of any item if a state has reason to believe that it can contribute to the development and capabilities of the DPRK’s armed forces.

In addition, the draft imposes new measures targeting proliferation networks, including an obligation on states to expel from their territory any DPRK diplomats or other government representatives as well as other foreign nationals involved in sanctions evasion, and to close the offices of entities on the sanctions list. It also imposes a ban on specialised teaching and training of DPRK nationals.

Furthermore, the draft designates an additional 13 individuals as subject to the travel ban and asset freeze, including several representatives of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation and the Tanchon Commercial Bank. It also designates 12 new entities as subject to the asset freeze, including the Ministry of Atomic Energy, the Reconnaissance Energy Bureau – described as the DPRK’s premiere intelligence organization – and the Munitions Industry Department. These designations are in line with recommendations that the Panel of Experts has made in its recent reports to the Committee and represent a significant expansion of the current sanctions list, which contains 12 individuals and 20 entities. The text makes clear that assets should be understood to include vessels, reflecting one of the recommendations made by the Panel of Experts in connection with the Chong Chon Gang case, which led to the designation by the Sanctions Committee of the Ocean Maritime Management Company (OMM) on 28 July 2014. Also included in the draft is an annex listing 31 vessels that are controlled by OMM and are therefore subject to the asset freeze.

Finally, the draft resolution expands the list of prohibited proliferation-sensitive items and makes binding the so-called “catch-all” provision in resolution 2094 relating to the transfer to or from the DPRK of any dual-use item, by deciding that states shall prevent such transfers instead of just calling on them to do so.

Throughout, the draft contains measures aimed at preventing or limiting any negative humanitarian consequences by including exemptions for livelihood purposes or medical, safety or other humanitarian purposes, where relevant.

Looking ahead, it seems that the possibility of an open briefing for the wider UN membership by the chair of the Committee is being considered.

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