DPRK: Security Council to Vote on Draft Resolution Imposing New Sanctions
This evening (11 September), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution expanding sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The draft is a response to the DPRK’s test of a nuclear device on 3 September. This was the sixth nuclear test conducted by DPRK since its first one in October 2006, and the most powerful such device it has tested. The draft resolution was put in blue late Sunday night (10 September) following intense bilateral engagement between the US and several Council members over the weekend. At press time, there were ongoing bilateral negotiations between the US, China and Russia, and it was possible that further changes might be made over the day.
Also on Monday afternoon, Council members will meet in consultations for the regular quarterly briefing by Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi of Italy, the chair of the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee, on the Committee’s work. The briefing is expected to focus on issues such as the status of the implementation reports by member states, recent implementation assistance matters, and an update on the visits undertaken by the Panel of Experts. Cardi is also expected to inform Council members that the Committee discussed the findings of the Panel of Experts mid-term report on 25 August.
DPRK Draft Resolution
If adopted, the draft resolution will be the third Council outcome on the DPRK in the past five weeks. The Council’s most recent resolution on the DPRK (S/RES/2371) was adopted on 5 August following two ballistic missile launches by the DPRK in July; it imposed a ban on the export of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore, and seafood from the DPRK, among other measures. The Council also adopted a presidential statement (S/PRST/2017/16) on 29 August condemning the DPRK’s launch of a ballistic missile over Japan earlier that day and other ballistic missile tests on 25 August.
On Wednesday (6 September), the US circulated the draft resolution to all fifteen members of the Council. The practice has generally been for China and the US to negotiate a draft text before it is circulated to the rest of the Council members with the rest of the Council having little opportunity to make changes to the draft text before a vote. An initial round of negotiations was held on Friday (8 September) at expert level. In addition, a series of ambassadorial-level bilateral discussions were undertaken, particularly over the weekend. The Egyptian and Chinese permanent representatives both returned early from the 6-8 September visiting mission to the AU in Addis Ababa because of Council activity on the DPRK in New York last week.
The initial draft had a number of areas of concern for several members, including the authorisation of member states to interdict and inspect cargo vessels on the high seas that have been designated by the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee or identified by the Committee or the Council as subject to the asset freeze imposed by resolution 1718. A number of Council members were concerned about the legal implications of authorising interdiction of these vessels without consent from the flag state and with authorisation of the use of “all necessary measures”, which may include use of force, to carry out inspections. In response to these concerns, the draft resolution in blue no longer authorises the use of all necessary measures and calls on members to inspect vessels with the consent of the flag state on the high seas, if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the vessels contain cargo prohibited by Council resolutions. It asks the Committee to consider imposing an asset freeze on a vessel if a high seas inspection is not allowed and it refuses to divert to a port for inspection. Under these circumstances, the flag state is required to de-register any such vessel. In addition, it would prohibit ship-to-ship transfers of items to or from DPRK-flagged vessels.
The total ban in the initial draft on the export of “crude oil, condensate, refined petroleum products, and natural gas liquids” to the DPRK and prohibition of exports of textiles from the DPRK was another area of concern for some members. The idea of an oil embargo has been suggested by the US in the past, but China, which supplies most of the DPRK’s crude oil, had been resistant. In order to try to get China’s support this time, the draft in blue, while banning all condensates and natural gas liquids, only imposes a cap on crude oil exports at their current level. The total ban on refined petroleum products was also removed and instead a cap of 2 million barrels a year would be imposed from 1 January 2018, following a cap of 5 million for a three month period starting on 1 October. The ban on textiles remains, and could still be an issue of contention for China.
There was an attempt in the initial draft to remove the exemption in resolution 2371 for coal that can be proven to have originated outside the DPRK and is transported through the DPRK to the North Korean port of Rajin which is close to both China and Russia. It seems as a concession to both China and Russia, the draft in blue does not include any language altering this exemption.
Significant changes were made to the list designating individuals and entities for an asset freeze and travel ban. The original text had imposed a travel ban and assets freeze on five senior government officials, including Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea Kim Jong-Un, and an assets freeze on six DPRK entities. The draft in blue removed President Kim Jong-Un and three other senior officials from the list as well as three of the entities listed in the annexes of the initial draft.
One of the more controversial aspects of the draft text for some members was the complete ban on the hiring and paying of DPRK labourers used to generate foreign export earnings. The 5 August resolution (S/RES/2371) banned only the additional hiring of DPRK workers abroad. The initial draft also said that DPRK nationals remitting funds back to the DPRK would be repatriated subject to applicable national and international law. It seems that several Council members had concerns that a total ban would have a negative economic impact on the families of those already working outside the DPRK. China and Russia, both of which have a high number of DPRK workers, were particularly reluctant to include the new provision. The compromise in the draft in blue is for member states not to provide new work authorisations for DPRK nationals but to allow workers for which “written contracts have been finalized prior to the adoption of this resolution” to continue working. However, it does require notification to the DPRK Sanctions Committee by 15 December of the number of North Koreans subject to these contracts and the anticipated date of termination of the contracts.
The importance of finding a diplomatic solution has been stressed by China and Russia, as well as a number of Council members. Previous resolutions and the initial draft reaffirmed support for the Six Party Talks and called for their resumption. The draft in blue again reiterates support for the Six Party Talks but in addition includes new language urging further work to reduce tensions in order to “advance the prospects for a comprehensive settlement” and underscoring the “imperative of achieving the goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner”.
Recent Diplomatic Activities on the DPRK
The negotiations have taken place in the broader context of intense diplomatic engagement on the crisis. Last Monday (4 September), the Council convened an emergency meeting at the request of France, Japan, the UK, the US, and the Republic of Korea, following the DPRK’s test of a nuclear device the day before (S/PV.8039). Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed on the test and said that the Secretary-General was counting on the Council “to remain united and take appropriate action.” Several members called for the imposition of new sanctions on the DPRK during the meeting, and US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the Council “must now adopt the strongest possible measures.” At the conclusion of the meeting, noting that the DPRK had indicated that it was planning another intercontinental ballistic missile test, Haley said the US would be circulating a draft resolution and that it wanted to put to a vote on 11 September. China reiterated the “suspension for suspension proposal” that has also been supported by Russia, which calls for the suspension by the DPRK of its nuclear and missile-related activities in return for the suspension by the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the US of any joint military exercises. The US rejects this proposal.
On Tuesday (5 September), UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the press at the media stakeout at UN headquarters in New York. He emphasised that the Council’s unity is critical in order to address the nuclear risk on the Korean peninsula, referring to it as “the most dangerous crisis we face today.” Guterres underscored the importance of a political solution because “the potential consequences of military action are too horrific.”
There have also been several exchanges between heads of state on how to address the crisis. US President Donald Trump spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday (6 September), with Xi reportedly urging dialogue as a means of denuclearising the Korean peninsula. In a joint press conference with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, also on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasised that Russia did not recognise a nuclear DPRK; at the same time, he said that “it is impossible to resolve the problem of the Korean peninsula only by sanctions and pressure” adding that everyone needs to be calm and avoid steps that lead to an escalation of tension”..” In its statement at the economic forum, the DPRK accused the US of wanting war and said it would respond with “powerful counter measures”.
Against this backdrop of rising tensions, the four launchers of the US anti-missile Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) were installed by the Republic of Korea on 7 September. Two launchers had been installed earlier. China has voiced strong objections to the deployment of the THAAD system and lodged a stern protest over the latest developments.