What's In Blue

Posted Tue 29 Nov 2016

Vote on New DPRK Sanctions Resolution and Briefing on DPRK Sanctions Committee

Tomorrow morning (30 November), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution condemning the nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on 9 September, reiterating that the DPRK shall abandon all activities previously banned by the Council and further tightening sanctions. After the adoption, Council members are scheduled to meet in consultations to hear the 90-day briefing on the work of the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee by the outgoing Committee chair, Ambassador Rom├ín Oyarzun (Spain).

As has become the practice for resolutions on the DPRK, the US produced the draft text, which was then negotiated and agreed by China and the US before being shared with other Council members. The draft was formally circulated to the full Council only on Friday (25 November) and presented in an informal meeting yesterday (28 November) before being put in blue late last night. It seems that Council members were generally supportive, reflecting unanimous and growing concern about the threat posed by the DPRK as it continues to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. Overall, it seems the proposed draft is seen as a strong text containing a number of significant new provisions.

If adopted, this will be the sixth round of sanctions imposed upon the DPRK since 2006. It took longer to negotiate than any of the previous resolutions – nearly 12 weeks compared to seven weeks following the DPRK’s nuclear test on 6 January this year – reflecting it seems, not only the need to bridge traditional differences between China and the US, but also the increasing complexity of the measures.

A key objective of the new resolution, as has been widely reported, is to close some of the so-called loopholes in the current sanctions regime, in particular those relating to some of the exemptions in resolution 2270, which was adopted in response to the 6 January nuclear test, and significantly expanded the sanctions against the DPRK. It seems that one of the most difficult issues to resolve in the China-US negotiations was how to deal with the exemption relating to the ban on the DPRK’s exports of coal, which are sold exclusively to China. Although resolution 2270 imposes a ban on such exports, there is an exemption allowing for transactions that are determined to be exclusively for livelihood purposes. This provision appears to have been interpreted in such a way as to have had no discernible negative impact on coal exports from the DPRK since the resolution was adopted. According to media reports, there was an increase in the DPRK’s exports during this period compared with the same period last year.

The proposed draft resolution seeks to address this issue by replacing the exemption clause in resolution 2270 with a new, unprecedented provision that imposes a limit on how much coal the DPRK can export per year. More specifically, exports from the DPRK between the adoption of the resolution and the end of this year should not exceed a total value of 53,495,894 US Dollars or 1,000,866 metric tons, and beginning on 1 January 2017, should not exceed 400,870,018 US Dollars or 7,500,000 metric tons per year, whichever is lower. The draft also clarifies that the transaction must be exclusively for livelihood purposes and must not involve individuals or entities that have been sanctioned or are believed to be associated with prohibited activities. It furthermore requires states to report all transactions promptly to the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee, with a standard reporting form attached as an annex, and directs the Committee to monitor total volumes and notify states when the allowed quantities have been reached and all procurement of coal from the DPRK must stop.

The proposed resolution also contains additional measures intended to further restrict the DPRK’s hard currency revenues. It imposes an embargo on the transfer or sale of copper, nickel, silver and zinc from the DPRK. In addition, it imposes a ban on the supply, sale or transfer from the DPRK of statues, which are apparently a popular export article, or new helicopters and vessels, except when approved in advance by the Committee on a case-by-case basis. The draft expresses concern that hard currency earned by DPRK nationals working abroad can be used for the country’s nuclear and ballistic missiles programmes and calls on states to exercise vigilance, but does not impose any restrictions or obligations.

In other provisions, the draft seeks to further restrict the activities of the DPRK’s diplomats and other officials. It calls on states to reduce the number of staff at DPRK diplomatic missions, and obligates states to restrict the entry into or transit through their territory of DPRK government or military officials if they believe these individuals are involved in illicit activities, limit the number of bank accounts for diplomatic missions, and prohibit the DPRK from using property for any other purpose than diplomatic or consular activity. In this context, the draft recalls Article 5 of the UN Charter, stating that a UN member state “against which preventive or enforcement action has been taken by the Security Council may be suspended from the rights and privileges of membership by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council”.

Furthermore, the proposed resolution designates, in an annex, an additional 11 individuals as subject to the travel ban and asset freeze, including former DPRK ambassadors to Egypt and Myanmar. In a separate annex, it designates ten new entities as subject to the asset freeze. These designations add to the current sanctions list, which already contains 28 individuals and 32 entities.
Moreover, the draft contains an annex with a list of additional items, materials, equipment, goods and technology that are subject to the embargo covering transfers to and from the DPRK, and another annex listing additional items covered by the ban on providing luxury goods to the DPRK. In a related provision, the text directs the Sanctions Committee to adopt a new conventional arms dual-use list of embargoed items within 15 days of the adoption of the resolution.

In addition, the proposed resolution clarifies, expands on or further tightens some of the existing measures of previous resolutions. This includes, among other things, several operative paragraphs seeking to put further restrictions on the maritime sector, including on vessels owned or controlled by the DPRK or involved in sanctions violations, as well as related activities such as crew services. The draft also contains a new provision authorising states to seize and dispose of prohibited items that are intercepted, and establishes new obligations for states to close existing representative offices, subsidiaries or banking accounts in the DPRK, prohibit financial support for trade with the DPRK, and suspend official scientific and technical cooperation with the DPRK, with some exceptions.

With regard to the work of the Committee, the draft resolution for the first time directs the Committee to hold special meetings on thematic and regional topics and on capacity challenges, to identify areas where member states would benefit from capacity building assistance aimed at more effective sanctions implementation. As with previous sanctions resolutions, member states are called on to report on their implementation of the resolution within 90 days of its adoption.

The chair’s 90-day report is not expected to be very substantive. It seems that the work of the Committee has been more or less on hold in anticipation of the outcome of the negotiations between China and the US on the new resolution, with the Committee last meeting on 26 August. The briefing was originally scheduled for 15 November, but was postponed so as not to interfere with the negotiations. Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi (Italy) will take over the chairmanship of the Committee on 1 January 2017.

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