What's In Blue

Posted Fri 22 Mar 2024

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

Tomorrow morning (28 March), the Security Council is scheduled 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 vote was originally scheduled for 22 March but was postponed to allow more time for negotiations among Council members.* It seems that those negotiations did not yield a revised text, and the Council is expected to vote on the same draft that was put in blue before the postponement. A veto by one or more of the Council’s permanent members appears to be a possible outcome of tomorrow’s vote.

The US, the penholder on the DPRK, circulated the first draft of the resolution to all Council members on 26 February. The first round of negotiations involving all Council members was held on 1 March and the second draft was circulated on 5 March, with a further round of negotiations taking place on 7 March. Following a third round of negotiations on 14 March, the US distributed a third draft on 15 March and placed it under silence until 18 March. Silence was broken by China and Russia. The penholder then engaged in bilateral negotiations with China and Russia before placing a fourth draft until silence until 21 March. Silence was again broken by China and Russia. Subsequently, the US placed a fifth draft text directly in blue, to be voted on 22 March. Shortly before the scheduled vote, the penholder decided to postpone the vote to allow more time for negotiations among Council members. It appears that Council members were still unable to overcome their divisions, however. Members are therefore expected to vote tomorrow on the same draft that was put in blue before the vote’s postponement.

The draft resolution in blue extends the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee until 30 April 2025. It requests the Panel to submit its midterm report to the Council on a confidential basis and to provide an oral briefing on the report to all UN member states by 20 September. It further requests the Panel to submit its final report to the Council by 21 March 2025. Apart from the provision making the Panel’s midterm report confidential and a change to the reporting cycle of the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee to the Council, the draft is largely identical to resolution 2680 of 23 March 2023, which extended the Panel’s mandate until 30 April.

It seems that the negotiations were long, difficult, and contentious, with China and Russia each proposing changes to the resolution, several of which were unacceptable to other Council members. China apparently suggested reducing the frequency of the Panel’s reporting by removing language requesting the Panel to provide the Council with a midterm report, as well as seeking to give the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee greater oversight of the Panel’s work by adding text that would have required the Committee to endorse the Panel’s report before it is provided to the Council. It appears that China also pushed for a reduction in the number of regular Council meetings on the DPRK by changing the Committee’s reporting cycle to the Council from 90 to 120 days. Russia, for its part, apparently proposed introducing a sunset clause that would have required the Council to renew the 1718 DPRK sanctions regime every year. (At present, the 1718 DPRK sanctions regime is open-ended and does not have an expiry date.) Most of these proposals were opposed by a majority of other Council members and were not included in the draft resolution in blue.

When breaking silence on 18 and 21 March, it seems that China and Russia argued that their concerns had not been adequately addressed by the penholder. In an apparent compromise, the draft text in blue incorporates China’s proposal to extend the Committee’s reporting cycle to the Council from 90 to 120 days. Additionally, while it retains the Panel’s mandate to submit a midterm report to the Council, it includes new language making the report confidential and requesting the Panel to provide an oral briefing on the report to the wider UN membership.

The Republic of Korea (ROK) suggested adding language clarifying that the Panel may provide the Committee with reports concerning specific incidents that might violate Security Council resolutions on the DPRK. It appears that this text was proposed because some members of the Panel have questioned whether the Panel has the authority to prepare incident reports regarding missile launches carried out by the DPRK. The language proposed by the ROK was subsequently amended by the penholder to encourage the Panel to provide such reports rather than clarifying that the Panel was authorised to do so, apparently because some members noted that clarification on this point was not required. After China and Russia expressed opposition to this paragraph, the penholder included in the draft resolution in blue further modified language requesting the Panel to keep the Committee “informed” of instances of non-compliance by the DPRK with measures imposed in relevant Council resolutions, without specifically requesting reports on such incidents.

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Post-script (22 March, 4:20 pm EST): After the story’s publication, the vote on the draft resolution extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1718 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee, which was scheduled to take place on Friday afternoon (22 March), was postponed to allow more time for negotiations among Council members. The story was amended to reflect the change in the timing of the vote.

Post-script (28 March, 2 pm EST): On 28 March, the Security Council voted on the draft resolution extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts (PoE) assisting the 1718 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee. The draft text failed to be adopted owing to a veto cast by Russia. All other members—except China, which abstained—voted in favour of the text.

In its explanation of vote, Russia claimed that the PoE had become politicised and that the sanctions regime no longer reflected realities on the ground, was overtly punitive, and contributed to heightened political tensions on the Korean peninsula, thereby undermining denuclearisation efforts. It further argued that a provision to annually renew the regime was required to address these issues. China expressed support for the Russian position and called on the Council to consider the draft resolution it circulated in October 2021 on the humanitarian situation in the DPRK, which would provide sanctions relief to the DPRK if adopted.

Other Council members strongly criticised Russia’s veto, arguing that it weakens the global non-proliferation regime and would embolden the DPRK’s attempts to evade sanctions. Several members—including France, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), the UK, and the US—linked the veto to the PoE’s reporting on Russia’s alleged purchase of ballistic missiles from the DPRK in violation of the 1718 regime. These members emphasised that the regime remained in place and that they would continue efforts to monitor and enforce its provisions.

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