What's In Blue

Posted Thu 23 Mar 2023

DPRK (North Korea): Panel of Experts Mandate Renewal*

This afternoon (23 March), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1718 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee.

The US, the penholder on the DPRK, circulated the initial draft of the resolution to all Council members on 10 March. The first round of negotiations involving all Council members was held on 14 March and a revised draft was circulated on 16 March, with the second round of negotiations taking place the following day (17 March). The US subsequently distributed a further draft on 20 March and placed it under silence until 3 pm on 21 March. Silence was broken by China and Russia. The penholder then engaged in bilateral negotiations with China and Russia before placing a draft in blue yesterday (22 March).

The draft text in blue extends the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 30 April 2024 and requests that the Panel submit its midterm report to the Council by 8 September and its final report by 2 February 2024. Apart from amendments to relevant dates and document numbers and the addition of new language referring to resolution 2664 of 9 December 2022, which established a standing humanitarian carve-out to the asset freeze measures imposed by UN sanctions regimes (also referred to as a humanitarian exception or exemption), the draft is identical to resolution 2627 of 25 March 2022. Resolution 2627 extended the Panel’s mandate until 30 April 2023.

It appears that the negotiations were contentious, with several Council members proposing language and additions which were not acceptable to other Council members and were consequently omitted from the draft in blue.

It seems that the addition of text concerning the unintended effects of sanctions on the humanitarian situation in the DPRK was an issue during the negotiations. The midterm report of the Panel, which was published on 7 September 2022, recommended that the Council “continue to address issues and processes that mitigate the potential unintended adverse impact of sanctions on the civilian population of the DPRK and on humanitarian aid operations to benefit the country’s vulnerable population and overcome the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic”. The report also recommended that the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee “consider the idea of exempting selected exports currently under sanctions, the proceeds of which might be used to finance humanitarian supplies”. It appears that China, with support from Russia, suggested adding language noting the recommendation regarding exemptions for certain exports and expressing an intention to address issues and processes that mitigate the potential unintended adverse impact of sanctions in the DPRK. This suggestion was opposed by other members, including the UK and the US, some of whom apparently argued that it would be inappropriate for the draft resolution to refer to one of the Panel’s recommendations without mentioning others.

It appears that differences also emerged in relation to text regarding the confidentiality of the Panel’s work. The Panel’s final report, which was due to be provided to the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee by 3 February 2023, was leaked to the media and publicly reported on in early February. As a result of this and other similar incidents, China apparently proposed adding language which expressed concern over unauthorised disclosure of the Panel’s reports, underscored that the Committee, the Panel, and the UN Secretariat shall take all necessary steps to avoid unauthorised disclosure of the reports, and emphasised the confidentiality obligations of members of the Panel. Although the US apparently proposed some changes to China’s suggested language on this issue, the draft resolution does not include text regarding the confidentiality of the Panel’s work.

The process for appointing members of the Panel and its Coordinator was another issue during the negotiations. It seems that Russia proposed text requiring the Secretariat to consult with the Committee and obtain its consent before making these appointments, apparently due to concerns regarding the current difficult working relationship between some members of the Panel. This amendment was opposed by other members, including Ecuador, France, the UK, and the US, and it was not added to the draft in blue.

It appears that none of the proposals made by China and Russia were incorporated in the draft that the penholder put under silence until 3 pm on 21 March, which led China, with subsequent support from Russia, to break silence. In breaking silence, China apparently noted that none of the issues it had raised had been addressed and expressed particular concern regarding the lack of a reference to the Panel’s recommendations about the potential adverse humanitarian impact of sanctions. The penholder subsequently engaged in bilateral consultations with China and Russia regarding these issues.

Following these consultations, the US added a standalone preambular paragraph recalling resolution 2664 generally and, in particular, paragraph 6 of that resolution, and put the draft directly in blue. (Paragraph 6 of resolution 2664 directed the Council’s sanctions committees, “assisted by their respective panels of experts”, to monitor the implementation of the humanitarian carve-out, “including any risk of diversion”.) It appears that this addition was made pursuant to a negotiated compromise between China and the US. The draft resolution in blue otherwise includes no language reflecting the proposals raised by China and Russia.

Prior to this amendment, references to resolution 2664 were included in both the preambular and operative paragraphs following suggestions from Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), proposals which received broad support from Council members. It appears that Switzerland proposed adding resolution 2664 to the list of previous resolutions recalled by the Council in the first preambular paragraph and that the UAE suggested that the operative paragraphs should indicate that the mandate of the Panel was modified by paragraph 6 of resolution 2664. Both of these references to resolution 2664 were removed when the draft was put in blue.

The DPRK’s cyberactivity was also discussed during the negotiations. The Panel’s midterm report referred to “two major hacks in 2022, at least one of them attributed to DPRK actors, resulting in the theft of cryptoassets worth hundreds of millions of [US] dollars” and “other cyberactivity focusing on stealing information”. During consultations on the draft text, the UK apparently contended that the Council should consider addressing the DPRK’s cyberactivity. Although this proposal received tentative support from some elected members, the draft resolution does not contain language on the DPRK’s cyber-attacks.

It seems that the UK also sought the addition of new language, requesting that the Panel provide the Committee with semi-annual oral briefings on the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. While this proposal enjoyed support from several other Council members, including Brazil and the European members, it was resisted by China and Russia and was not incorporated in the draft resolution.

In a similar vein, Japan apparently suggested adding language clarifying that the Panel may provide the Committee with incident reports concerning specific events that might violate Council resolutions on the DPRK. It appears that this text was proposed because two members of the Panel have questioned whether the Panel has the authority to prepare incident reports regarding missile launches carried out by the DPRK. It seems that Japan’s suggestion was supported by other Council members but opposed by China and Russia.

It appears that the UAE proposed adding text noting that the selection process for the Panel should prioritise appointing individuals with strong qualifications while taking regional representation and gender into account. It seems that the language regarding gender was strongly opposed by Russia, and the UAE’s proposal was not included in the draft in blue.

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*Post-script: On 23 March, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2680, which extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee until 30 April 2024.

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