What's In Blue

Meeting on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Ballistic Missile Launch

This afternoon (3 August), at the request of Japan, the Republic of Korea (RoK) and the US, the Security Council will be briefed in consultations by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun on the firing of two ballistic missiles today by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The first exploded immediately after launching, while the other landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. This is the third launch of ballistic missiles by the DPRK since the RoK and the US agreed on 8 July to install a battery of the US&#8217s; Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defence system in RoK by the end of 2017.

Since the Council adopted resolution 2270 on 2 March, expanding sanctions against the DPRK (for further details, please refer to our 26 February What’s in Blue story), the DPRK has conducted missile launches on 10 and 18 March, 27 and 28 April, 31 May, 21 June, and 9 and 19 July. Council members responded to the April and May launches through a press statement, which was initially blocked by Russia, and eventually agreed to on 1 June. The press statement condemned the launches, which they said were in grave violation of relevant Council resolutions. Following the 21 June launch, Council members issued a press statement on 23 June, strongly condemning the launches and reiterating the main elements of the 1 June press statement. There has been no Council response to the 9 July failed attempt by a DPRK submarine to launch a ballistic missile, or to the 19 July launch of two short-range Scud missiles and one Rodong intermediate-range missile.

While Council members will be interested in any further details that Zerihoun may be able to provide, it is clear to many of them that the recent launches violate Council resolutions. However, in the past the Council has not been able to move swiftly in response to DPRK’s launches. The resolution adopted in March, in response to a 6 January nuclear test and a 7 February satellite launch, imposed the fifth round of sanctions against the DPRK since 2006. It took seven weeks to negotiate, partly because of the complexity of the new measures introduced as well as the need to bridge the traditional divide between China and the US on this issue. Often, the first response has been a press statement, but as seen in April, even that has proved difficult. It is likely that if the Council decides to try and negotiate any kind of product China and Russia may take a conservative approach since they have expressed their own reservations concerning the THAAD battery deployment, as its monitoring capabilities could potentially cover their territories. Generally, resolutions on this issue have been negotiated between China and the US, but with this launch, given Japan’s very direct interest, it is likely to want to play a key role.

Council members are aware that although resolution 2270 significantly expanded the sanctions regime against the DPRK, adding sectoral measures and broadening the scope of financial sanctions, it does not appear to have achieved the objective of preventing the DPRK from conducting further launches and inducing Pyongyang to engage with the international community on the issue of denuclearisation.

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