What's In Blue

Posted Wed 29 Nov 2017

Meeting on DPRK Missile Launch and 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee

This afternoon (29 November), at the request of Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the US, the Security Council will hold a public meeting on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) following its launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile yesterday. Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman will brief. At press time, discussions were ongoing on a possible outcome.

At the same meeting, the Council will receive its regular 90-day briefing from Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi (Italy), the chair of the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee, on the committee’s work. This meeting had already been scheduled as a briefing in consultations, but following the request for a meeting on the missile launch, it was decided that Cardi’s briefing should be part of the public session.

While there has been an increase this year in the pace of missile tests conducted by the DPRK, yesterday’s launch was the first since 15 September. According to the DPRK, the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) reached an altitude of about 4,475km (2,780 miles) and flew 950km (590 miles) in 53 minutes before falling into the Sea of Japan. It has claimed that the missile was a Hwasong-15, capable of striking the US mainland. If true, this would mark the launch of a new type of missile by the DPRK. The other launches in 2017 have been of older ICBMs.

Members will be interested in getting further details about the launch, including whether it was a new type of ICBM that was tested, indicating technological progress in the DPRK’s nuclear development. It is clear to all members that this was a violation of Council resolutions, and members are likely to strongly condemn the launch and demand that the DPRK abide by the resolutions. The US, which has taken an increasingly aggressive stand over the year, may push for stronger measures against the DPRK. On 20 November, US President Donald Trump designated the DPRK a state sponsor of terrorism, and on the following day, the US imposed new sanctions on the DPRK. Both Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have suggested that the US could impose still further sanctions on the DPRK. While China has expressed concern over the launch, it is still likely to reiterate its longstanding position that a more comprehensive solution is needed that takes into account all the key stakeholders. Some other members, while urging full implementation of Council sanctions, may also call for all parties to refrain from actions that could increase tensions and lead to destabilisation in the region.

In recent months, the Council has responded to the DPRK’s recent missile and nuclear tests with resolutions imposing further sanctions. Following a 2 September nuclear test, the Council responded on 11 September by unanimously adopting resolution 2375, expanding sanctions to additional sectors of the North Korean economy. The resolution prohibited the import of textiles produced in North Korea, bans gas exports, and set a limit on exports of petroleum products and crude oil. It also included new tools to stop high seas smuggling of prohibited goods. Furthermore, it strengthened prohibitions on employing North Korean workers abroad and demanded that joint ventures with North Korea be closed, with certain exceptions to be determined by the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee. In addition, the resolution froze the assets and imposed a travel ban on one individual and three entities.

A month earlier, following two ballistic missile launches by the DPRK on 4 and 9 July, the Council adopted resolution 2371 on 5 August, which 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 on 29 August, condemning the multiple ballistic missile tests conducted by DPRK on 25 August and the launch of a ballistic missile over Japan on 28 August.

It is unclear if members will now push for another resolution strengthening sanctions or stress the full implementation of the existing sanctions. If a new resolution is considered, among the possible new measures could be completely banning petroleum and crude oil exports and allowing 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. These measures had been included in earlier drafts of recent resolutions, but were eventually modified or removed following resistance from China and several other members. The designation of new individuals and entities, including high-level government officials, could also be considered.

1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee Briefing
Cardi is expected to reiterate the need for full implementation of the sanctions. He will focus on the activities of the 1718 Sanctions Committee since his last briefing on 11 September, including the measures member states have taken to implement the provisions of resolution 2375. He is expected to update members on the status of implementation reports by member states, recent implementation assistance matters, and the adoption of national legislation for financial reporting requirements, as well as reporting on the weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons lists. He is also likely to cover the Committee’s recent designation of four vessels for carrying coal from the DPRK. These ships will now be prohibited entry into all ports of member states, and it seems that four other ships are being considered pending further investigation.

This briefing may provide Council members with an opportunity to discuss the difficulties encountered in implementing the existing sanctions on the DPRK, particularly the financial sanctions. The closure of joint ventures with the DPRK, within 120 days, unless they have been approved by the Committee, is one aspect of resolution 2375 that is proving complicated to implement. This issue, together with the humanitarian impact of the sanctions on the local population, is expected to be discussed at the next meeting of the Committee on 11 December.

Looking ahead, Japan is planning a ministerial-level meeting on the threats and challenges posed by the DPRK to international peace and security during its presidency in December. This meeting may provide an opportunity for Council members to push for the full implementation of the existing sanctions, as well as to discuss other ways of putting pressure on the DPRK.

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