DPRK: Open Briefing*
Tomorrow morning (21 November), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo is expected to brief. Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US requested the meeting to discuss the DPRK’s latest missile tests. Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are expected to 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 18 November, Japanese officials announced that the DPRK had fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that travelled some 1,000 kilometres, reaching an altitude of approximately 6,000 kilometres and a speed of Mach 22 before landing about 200 kilometres off the coast of Japan. In a statement, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that the missile likely fell in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Japanese officials also noted that the ICBM had sufficient range to reach the US mainland.
US Vice President Kamala Harris and leaders from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the ROK immediately condemned the launch during an emergency meeting on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. According to media reports, Harris said that the US “strongly condemn[s] these actions” and calls on the DPRK “to stop further unlawful, destabilising acts”. At a meeting of the ROK’s National Security Council the same day, ROK President Yoon Suk-yeol reportedly called for additional sanctions against the DPRK and the implementation of extended deterrence measures.
In a 19 November statement, DPRK state media claimed that the missile was a Hwasong-17, the DPRK’s most advanced ICBM, and said that DPRK leader Kim Jong-un “solemnly declared that if the enemies continue to pose threats … our party and government will resolutely react to nukes with nuclear weapons and to total confrontation with all-out confrontation”.
This incident followed several other ballistic missile launches this month, some of which took place during the six-day ROK and US training drills known as “Vigilant Storm”, which started on 31 October and involved hundreds of ROK and US warplanes that performed major air missions such as close air support, defensive counter air, and emergency air operations. The drills also marked the first time the US had flown supersonic B-1B bombers over the ROK since 2017. The DPRK tested multiple missiles on 3 November, including a suspected ICBM. On 5 November, ROK military officials announced that the DPRK had fired four short-range ballistic missiles into waters off its west coast. In a 7 November statement, the DPRK military said that its recent missile launches were a simulated attack on the ROK that were intended to “smash the enemies’ persistent war hysteria”.
On 9 November, Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters that the DPRK had fired at least one ballistic missile east towards the Sea of Japan. Hamada said that the missile flew to an altitude of 50 kilometres and covered a distance of 250 kilometres. And on 17 November, the ROK military announced that the DPRK had launched another ballistic missile from the eastern city of Wŏnsan. According to the statement, the missile flew 240 kilometres to an altitude of 47 kilometres at Mach 4 speed. The test took place immediately following a joint missile defence drill conducted by the ROK and the US and hours after DPRK Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui criticised a 13 November trilateral meeting between Japan, the ROK, and the US on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, warning of “fiercer military responses” from the DPRK. During the meeting, US President Joe Biden reportedly reaffirmed the US’ commitment to reinforce extended deterrence and defend Japan and the ROK with its “full range of capabilities”, including nuclear weapons.
At tomorrow’s meeting, 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 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. Some members might criticise the DPRK for expending funds on its missile program while ignoring the humanitarian needs of its people.
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 intended to provide sanctions relief to the DPRK. Some members might question the efficacy of the 1718 DPRK sanctions regime.
Tomorrow’s meeting will be the third time that the Council has met to discuss the DPRK’s missile launches in the last two months. Following the last meeting on 4 November (S/PV.9183), the Council’s elected members issued a joint statement that condemned the DPRK’s missile launches, expressed concern regarding the high number of launches in recent times, and called on the DPRK to fully respect and comply with Council resolutions and refrain from further tests. On the same day, Albania, Ecuador, France, India, Ireland, Japan, Malta, Norway, the ROK, Switzerland, the UK, and the US also issued a statement that strongly condemned the DPRK’s recent missile tests and called on all member states to fully implement the relevant Council resolutions.
*Post-script (21 November 11:30 am): During the meeting, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (United States) announced that the US will pursue a presidential statement on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). At the time of writing, a draft of the proposed presidential statement had not been circulated to all Council members.