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Non-Proliferation/DPRK: Ministerial Briefing

Tomorrow (15 December), the Council will hold a ministerial-level meeting on the “Threats and Challenges posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to International Peace and Security”, with Secretary-General António Guterres expected to brief. Japanese Foreign Minister Tarō Kōno will chair the meeting, and it is anticipated that a number of other Council members will be represented at ministerial level. The Republic of Korea (ROK) and DPRK are expected to participate under Rule 37 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Council.

Japan circulated a concept note with background information on the issue, which suggested that members could focus on nuclear and missile development programmes as well as other weapons of mass destruction (chemical and biological weapons). It asked Council members to consider ways to maximise pressure on the DPRK, including through the full implementation of relevant Council resolutions and additional sanctions measures “in response to further provocations”.

The Secretary-General may reiterate the importance of Council unity on this issue and reaffirm his willingness to work with all parties, as well as emphasise the need for a political solution. Members will be interested in whether the Secretary-General is expecting any follow-up to Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman’s visit to Pyongyang from 5 to 8 December. Feltman briefed Council members on 12 December on his visit, where he met with Minister for Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho and Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Pak Myong Guk and visited a number of UN project sites. It seems that in his briefing to Council members, he expressed concern that his interlocutors did not appear to fully appreciate the gravity of the situation and were not ready to engage in substantive negotiations.

Council members have had several opportunities this year to make clear their positions on the DPRK and non-proliferation. Besides the ministerial meeting in April on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula during the US presidency, there have been seven public meetings on the DPRK in 2017. In addition, following most of the ballistic missile tests this year, Council members have had closed briefings from the Secretariat.
While the P3 have generally focused on strengthening sanctions as punitive measures in response to DPRK’s tests, others such as China and Russia have argued strongly for the need for a political solution. Tomorrow, China is expected to reiterate its proposal of “suspension-for-suspension”, where the DPRK would suspend its nuclear and missile activities and the ROK and the US would suspend their joint military exercises. Together with Russia, China advocates a dual-track approach for parallel progress in denuclearisation and the establishment of a “peace mechanism”. These members believe that as long as DPRK feels that its security is directly threatened, it will continue with its nuclear development. The majority of members have come to constitute a middle group that agree with strengthening sanctions, but also advocate greater Council consideration of diplomatic approaches. There is likely to be particular interest in US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement. On 12 December, Tillerson said that the US was ready to have a meeting with the DPRK with “no preconditions”, although the White House subsequently issued a statement making clear that there was no shift in policy and contradictory statements have been made on this issue by the Trump administration. Members will be interested in any information that Tillerson may provide on the views of the US on the possibility of dialogue, as this is seen as key to bringing DPRK to the table.

DPRK activities and Council responses

In addition to the three nuclear tests in the past two years, there has been an increase in 2017 in the pace of missile tests conducted by the DPRK, with signs of significant technological advances in the development of intermediate-range and submarine-launched missiles. In response, the Council has increased the intensity of its attention on the DPRK. In the first half of 2017, the Council’s reaction to tests by the DPRK was generally limited to a series of press statements. In the first press statement of the year (SC/12716) on 13 February, Council members condemned the 11 February missile launch as a grave violation 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. There have been seven subsequent statements: SC/12741 (7 March), SC/12763 (23 March), SC/12780 (6 April), SC/12801 (20 April), SC/12821 (15 May), SC/12831 (22 May) and SC/12994 (15 September). Although much of the language in these statements has been the same, there has been a sharpening in tone over the year. Starting in May, the Council began to respond by adopting resolutions, which strengthened the existing sanctions measures or added new measures.

Council Resolutions on DPRK
Since non-proliferation in relation to DPRK became a formal Council agenda item in 2006, the Council has adopted ten sanctions resolutions in response to DPRK’s nuclear and missile activities:

This table documents the DPRK’s ballistic missile and nuclear tests and the Council’s responses to them in 2017.

DPRKs ballistic missile and nuclear tests

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