What's In Blue

Posted Wed 17 Jan 2024

DPRK (North Korea): Closed Consultations

Tomorrow morning (18 January), Security Council members will convene for closed consultations on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific Mohammed Khaled Khiari is expected to brief. The US, supported by Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Slovenia, and the UK, requested the meeting after the DPRK launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) on Sunday (14 January).

On 14 January, the DPRK announced that it had tested a new solid-fuel IRBM equipped with a hypersonic warhead. According to media reports, the ROK’s Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that the missile was launched from an area north of Pyongyang. It travelled around 1,000 kilometres before landing in the Sea of Japan.

Sunday’s launch marked the first ballistic missile test conducted by the DPRK this year. This follows a significant rise in tensions on the Korean Peninsula over the past several months. On 19 December 2023, the Council held an open briefing after the DPRK launched a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and a short-range ballistic missile. The Council also convened for an open briefing on 27 November 2023 after the DPRK launched a reconnaissance satellite into the Earth’s orbit. (For more information, see our 24 November 2023 and 18 December 2023 What’s in Blue stories.)

In their statements tomorrow, the P3 (France, the UK, and the US) and other like-minded members are expected to strongly condemn the recent missile tests, emphasising that they violate Security Council resolutions and further destabilise the Korean Peninsula. These members are likely to reiterate their calls on the DPRK to engage in denuclearisation dialogue and abandon its nuclear and ballistic missiles programmes. Some of these members may call on member states to comply with Council resolutions, accuse the DPRK of raising tensions in the region, and criticise it for expending funds on its missile programme while ignoring the humanitarian needs of its people.

Some Council members may be critical of China and Russia for blocking Council action on the DPRK and argue that the Council’s lack of response undermines its credibility. Despite the record number of ballistic missile tests conducted by the DPRK since the beginning of 2022, the Council has been unable to agree on a product responding to the launches due to opposition from China and Russia.

China and Russia, on the other hand, may blame the US for escalating the situation, pointing to US military exercises with the ROK and Japan. Both members are likely to accuse the US of not doing enough to incentivise the DPRK to participate in denuclearisation talks and might argue that any Council product regarding the DPRK should not be one-sided. China and Russia may also express their support for a draft resolution circulated by China in October 2021, which would provide sanctions relief to the DPRK if adopted, and contend that adopting this resolution would encourage the DPRK to resume dialogue and help ease the overall situation.

Several members may use tomorrow’s meeting to raise concerns about the growing military cooperation between the DPRK and Russia. In this regard, they might accuse the DPRK of providing Russia with ballistic missiles that it has used to target Ukraine. On 6 January, the US, together with 49 other member states and the High Representative of the EU, issued a joint statement condemning the export of ballistic missiles to Russia by the DPRK, and contending that these arms transfers contravene several Council resolutions. During a 10 January Council briefing on Ukraine, several Council members—Japan, the ROK, Slovenia, the UK, and the US—expressed concern over Russia’s alleged use of ballistic missiles from the DPRK in Ukraine. Russia rejected claims that it used ballistic missiles provided by the DPRK and accused the US of spreading misinformation. (For background, see our 9 January What’s in Blue story.)

Tomorrow’s meeting will be the first on the DPRK for new elected members Algeria, Guyana, the ROK, Sierra Leone, and Slovenia. Two incoming members, the ROK and Slovenia, are among the members that joined the US in calling for this meeting. Among the new elected members, the ROK has a major stake in non-proliferation and security issues on the Korean Peninsula.

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