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DPRK (North Korea): Open Briefing

This afternoon (4 November), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific Mohamed Khaled Khiari is expected to brief. Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US requested the meeting after the DPRK conducted missile tests on 2 November and 3 November. Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) will participate in the meeting under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.

The DPRK has carried out a record number of tests involving cruise or ballistic missiles this year. On 2 November, the DPRK fired at least 23 missiles into the sea off its east and west coasts—the highest number it has tested in a single day—including a ballistic missile that reportedly landed approximately 60 kilometres away from the ROK’s coastline. According to ROK military officials, the test marked the first time that a ballistic missile has landed near ROK territorial waters since the Korean peninsula was divided in 1945. ROK officials also reported that the DPRK had fired more than 100 rounds of artillery into a maritime buffer zone established by a 2018 inter-Korean agreement designed to reduce military tensions.

The tests came days after the ROK and the US began a series of training drills known as “Vigilant Storm”, which involves hundreds of ROK and US warplanes working together “to perform major air missions such as close air support, defensive counter air, and emergency air operations 24 hours a day”, according to a statement by the US Air Force.

The DPRK foreign ministry has criticised the US for conducting military drills with the ROK and warned that the US will face “powerful follow-up measures” if it continues with the exercises. On 1 November, Pak Jong Chon, a member of the Central Committee of the DPRK Workers’ Party, said that “if the US and ROK attempt to use armed forces against the DPRK without any fear, the special means of the DPRK’s armed forces will carry out their strategic mission without delay and the US and [ROK] will have to face a terrible case and pay the most horrible price in history”.

In a 2 November statement, the office of ROK President Yoon Suk-yeol said that “[the DPRK’s] provocation today was an effective act of territorial encroachment” and promised a “swift and firm response by the ROK”. The ROK military subsequently announced that F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets had fired air-to-land missiles towards DPRK territorial waters.

On 3 November, the DPRK fired multiple missiles into waters off its east coast, including a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that triggered an emergency alert system in northern Japan. According to media reports, ROK officials believe that the DPRK tested a Hwasong-17, the DPRK’s most powerful ICBM, and that the missile failed mid-flight. In a 3 November statement, US Department of State Spokesperson Ned Price said that the apparent ICBM test was “a clear violation of multiple [Security Council] resolutions”, which “demonstrates the threat the DPRK’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs pose to its neighbours, the region, international peace and security, and the global non-proliferation regime”. The ROK and the US also announced that “Vigilant Storm”, which was due to end on 4 November, will be extended indefinitely.

At today’s meeting, Council members are likely to be interested in hearing Khiari’s analysis of the DPRK’s latest missile tests. Some members, including the P3 (France, the UK, and the US) and other like-minded states are likely to condemn the recent missile tests, argue that they violate Security Council resolutions and destabilise the Korean peninsula, and strongly urge the DPRK to engage in denuclearisation dialogue. These members may call on member states to comply with the 1718 DPRK sanctions regime and accuse the DPRK of raising tensions in the region.

China and Russia, on the other hand, might blame the US for escalating the situation and accuse it of not doing enough to incentivise the DPRK to participate in denuclearisation talks. Both members may also contend that sanctions should be eased because of their impact on the humanitarian situation in the DPRK and express their support for a draft resolution circulated by China in October 2021 that would provide sanctions relief to the DPRK if adopted. Some members might question the efficacy of the 1718 DPRK sanctions regime.

Today’s meeting will be the second time in a month that the Council has met to discuss missile launches conducted by the DPRK. On 5 October, the Security Council convened for an open briefing to discuss a test carried out by the DPRK on 4 October. The meeting, which was followed by closed consultations, was requested by Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US. Khiari briefed and Japan and the ROK participated under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure. It seems that the US circulated a draft press statement ahead of the meeting that condemned the 4 October test and encouraged efforts to engage in dialogue, among other matters. While the majority of Council members appeared to support the draft statement, it was not issued because of opposition from China and Russia.

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