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Briefing by the Chair of the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee

On Monday afternoon (27 February), the chair of the 1718 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi (Italy), is scheduled to brief Council members in consultations on the work of the Committee. It will be Cardi’s first briefing since taking over the chair from Ambassador Rom├ín Oyarzun (Spain) on 1 January. Although these 90-day briefings by the chair are normally rather procedural and technical in nature, the meeting on Monday comes at a time of heightened concern about the threat posed by the DPRK and offers an opportunity for Council members to discuss more substantive issues as they grapple with how best to respond to the DPRK’s latest provocations and violations of relevant Council resolutions.

Most recently, the DPRK on 11 February conducted another ballistic missile test, its first since October 2016. While DPRK leader Kim Jong-un had declared in his New Year’s speech that preparations for the first test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile were in the final stages, the latest launch only involved an intermediate-range rocket. It nevertheless demonstrated that the DPRK has made further progress in developing its prohibited missile programme. According to the DPRK’s own news reports, the missile was an upgraded, extended-range version of the submarine-launched missile it tested last August and was propelled by a solid fuel engine, representing a significant step up from the liquid fuel models the DPRK has used in the past. In a 13 February press statement following consultations (SC/12716), Council members condemned the missile launch as a grave violation of the DPRK’s international obligations and relevant Council resolutions, and called on states to redouble their efforts to implement the sanctions imposed by the Council, in particular the comprehensive measures of resolutions 2270 and 2321 adopted last year in response to the DPRK’s nuclear tests.

Just ahead of this latest missile launch, on 31 January, the Sanctions Committee received the final report under its current mandate from the Panel of Experts assisting the Committee, which also confirmed that the DPRK has made further technological advances despite the strengthening of the sanctions regime. According to the report, sanctions implementation remains insufficient and inconsistent, with the DPRK retaining access to the international banking system, and designated entities on the sanctions list continuing to operate. Despite the new sectoral sanctions imposed by the Council last year, the report found that the DPRK has continued to export banned minerals and that coal exports increased from 2015 to 2016. The Panel concluded that support for strengthening the sanctions had not been matched by political will and resources to ensure effective implementation. It recommended, among other things, the designation of additional individuals and entities and the creation of a separate list of designated vessels, to be updated on a regular basis. The Panel also recommended that the Committee issue an Implementation Assistance Notice to clarify which minerals are covered by the import ban.

The Panel’s report and its findings are expected to be raised at the meeting on Monday in the context of the need to ensure that the sanctions are effectively implemented. The Committee met on 16 February to consider the report, but only had a very preliminary exchange of views as several Council members said they needed more time to review it. In general, however, members seemed to agree on the high quality of the Panel’s work, with some expressing support for the report’s findings and recommendations. The meeting on Monday provides an opportunity for a further exchange of views on the report, which is expected to be made public in March.

Other developments relating to the work of the Sanctions Committee that Cardi is likely to cover in his briefing include the recent submission to the Committee of the first report from a member state on coal imported from the DPRK. As decided by the Council in resolution 2321, which imposed a binding cap on how much coal the DPRK can export per year, states are required to report all relevant coal transactions promptly to the Committee, which will declare when the allowed quantities have been reached and all further procurement of coal from the DPRK must stop. According to information posted on the Committee’s website on 20 February, one state reported that it had imported nearly 1,442,000 tons of coal during the month of January, representing 19 percent of the annual total volume permitted under resolution 2321. For the month of December 2016, both the volume and the value of the reported coal transactions exceeded by far the limits set by the resolution. Although not named on the website, it is understood that the reporting state was China. On 18 February, China announced that it would suspend all import of coal from the DPRK; subsequently it said that the excess amount imported in December was due to a normal time lag between the adoption and implementation of the resolution needed to carry out legal procedures and disseminate information.

Cardi may also highlight the Committee’s outreach activities, including the open briefing for member states that he convened on 2 February with the Panel of Experts’ coordinator, Hugh Griffiths. At that meeting, Cardi explained the new sanctions measures in resolution 2321 and reminded member states of their upcoming reporting obligations, while Griffiths spoke about the work of the Panel. (Cardi’s presentation can be found on the Committee’s website) In this context, Council members may want to highlight the importance of outreach to ensure more effective sanctions implementation. Some members may note that resolution 2321 directed 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.

In addition, Cardi is likely to highlight some of the actions taken by the Committee during the reporting period. On 15 December 2016, the Committee adopted the list of conventional arms dual-use items referred to in one of the provisions of resolution 2321(S/2016/1069). The items on the list are subject to the import and export ban first imposed by the Council in resolution 1718. On 17 December, the Committee announced the removal of five vessels from the sanctions list annexed to resolution 2270, citing new measures that had been taken to establish confidence that the vessels were not controlled or operated by the Ocean Maritime Management Company, the entity that was listed by the Committee in July 2014 for its involvement in the arms shipment intercepted by Panama in July 2013 (SC/12636).

Looking ahead, the Council is due to renew the Panel of Experts’ mandate towards the end of March. Although the mandate does not expire until 24 April, it is normally renewed one month in advance.

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