Consultations on 5 September missile launches by the DPRK
This morning (6 September), at the request of Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the US, Council members will meet in consultations to discuss the ballistic missile launches conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on 5 September. A briefing by the Secretariat is expected. At press time, the US, as the penholder, was expected to propose a press statement as an outcome.
Yesterday’s missile launches, which coincided with the 4 – 5 September G20 summit held in Hangzhou, China, were the latest in a series of such provocations by the DPRK in contravention of the ban imposed by the Council through various resolutions on the country’s use of ballistic missile technology. The incident yesterday involved the test-firing of three mid-range Rodong missiles, all of which, according to media reports, reached the Japanese exclusive economic zone west of Hokkaido. In the period since the Council adopted resolution 2270 on 2 March, significantly expanding sanctions against the DPRK in response to its 6 January nuclear test, the DPRK has conducted missile launches on 10 and 18 March, 27 and 28 April, 31 May, 21 June, 9 and 19 July, and 3 and 24 August.
The Council’s response has so far been limited to a series of press statements. Since March there have been six press statements condemning the various launches and calling on states to intensify their efforts to implement the sanctions measures against the DPRK. The most recent statement was issued on 26 August in response to the DPRK’s 23 August submarine-launch of a ballistic missile, following a briefing in consultations on 24 August by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman. The statement (SC/12494) condemned the DPRK’s 9 and 18 July and 3 and 23 August launches as “grave violations” of the DPRK’s international obligations under relevant Council resolutions. It noted that such activities contribute to the development of the DPRK’s nuclear weapons delivery systems and increase tensions, while also regretting that they divert resources from the unmet needs of its population.
Moreover, the statement called on member states to “redouble their efforts” to fully implement the measures against the DPRK, in particular those imposed through resolution 2270. It also directed the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee to intensify its work to strengthen enforcement of the resolution and assist member states to comply with their obligations, and called on states to report on implementation as soon as possible. Finally, Council members expressed their commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation, welcoming efforts aimed at finding a comprehensive solution through dialogue and stressing the importance of reducing tensions. The statement also expressed the Council’s willingness to take “further significant measures”.
While Council members are in agreement that the recent launches conducted by the DPRK violate Council resolutions, significant differences persist among Council members as to the most appropriate response and whether the DPRK is solely to blame for the escalation of the situation. This was evident when Russia initially blocked a press statement proposed by the US in response to the March and April missile launches (it was eventually adopted on 1 June), and more recently, when China was reluctant to agree to a statement proposed in response to the 2 August launch. In particular, it seems that the recent agreement by the RoK and the US to install a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defence system battery in the RoK by the end of 2017, which both China and Russia oppose, has significantly impacted Council dynamics in recent discussions, during both the 24 August consultations as well as a 26 August meeting of the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee (when the Committee considered implementation of resolution 2270 and discussed the mid-term report submitted by its panel of experts) and the 30 August regular briefing on the Committee’s work by its chair, Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain). It appears that several Council members, while condemning the DPRK’s missile launches, characterised the THAAD deployment as contributing to tension. It therefore remains to be seen whether Council members will be able to agree on any “further significant measures”.