What's In Blue

Consultations on DPRK’s Missile Launch over Japan

This afternoon (29 August), at the request of Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the US, Security Council members will hold consultations on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) 28 August missile launch over Japan. This missile launch follows the launch of three short-range ballistic missiles on Saturday and comes two weeks after DPRK President Kim Jong-un threated to fire missiles toward the US Pacific territory of Guam. Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenča will brief and members are expected to consider possibilities for further pressure on the DPRK. The US may propose a press statement condemning the launch at the meeting.

This missile launch appears to have been timed to coincide with the annual joint military exercises of the ROK and the US which began on 20 August. DPRK has reacted in a similar manner to these exercises in the past. According to media reports the missile, which appears to be an intermediate-range Hwasong-12, flew 1,677 miles and reached a maximum height of 341 miles before breaking into three pieces and falling into the Pacific Ocean near Hokkaido island in northern Japan. This is only the third time a missile has been fired over Japanese territory. The tests in 1998 and 2009 were of rockets carrying satellites into orbit.

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, denounced the launch as an “unprecedented and grave threat” to the country’s security. In a statement, US President Donald Trump said that all “options are on the table”. China warned that the tensions have reached a tipping point and urged all sides to avoid provocations. Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the launch as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions which undermined regional security and stability and efforts to create space for dialogue.

The Council adopted resolution 2371 on 5 August strengthening sanctions on the DPRK and condemning the 3 and 28 July ballistic missile launches. Among other things, the resolution imposed a full ban on the export of coal, iron and iron ore from the DPRK; also prohibited the export of lead, lead ore and seafood; and froze the number of work authorisations for DPRK labourers working abroad at current levels. In addition, the resolution designated nine additional individuals for a travel ban and assets freeze and four additional entities for an assets freeze.

While Council members will be interested in any further details that Jenča may be able to provide, it is clear to them that this launch is a violation of Council resolutions. Council members are expected to strongly condemn the latest missile launch and the DPRK’s disregard of the recent sanctions imposed on it. Japan is expected to call for increased pressure on the DPRK, but it is unclear if members are open to new approaches and options. While another resolution with additional sanctions, for example on the supply of crude oil to the DPRK, and additional designation of individuals and entities, is a possibility, it seems that this approach has not been particularly successful in stopping the DPRK from launching missiles. China has in the past been resistant to some of these further sanctions, and it is unclear how much the US will be able to push for a further strengthening of the sanctions.

Some members are likely to stress that there are no military solutions to this situation and may raise the need for diplomatic options, including dialogue and negotiations. China and Russia are expected to call for a more comprehensive solution, with China likely to reiterate its call for the DPRK to suspend missile tests in return for a halt to ROK-US military exercises and for peace talks.

At the subsidiary body level, the US has submitted a list of items to expand the 1718 conventional arms dual-use export control list in response to resolution 2371, which directed the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee to designate additional conventional arms-related items, materials, equipment, goods and technology by 4 September. The list is currently under silence until 1 September. The implementation of the sanctions regime will be a focus in next month’s programme of work, with a briefing by the chair of the sanctions committee, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi (Italy), scheduled for the second week of September and the panel of experts’ midterm report is due on 6 September.

Postscript: Following the consultations, the Council adopted a presidential statement condemning the ballistic missile launch and demanded that the DPRK immediately cease all such actions. It also demanded that the DPRK not proceed with any future launches and comply with all Security Council resolutions.


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