Ending weeks of speculation, North Korea launched seven missiles into the Sea of Japan July 4-5. The launches included a failed test of Pyongyang’s Taepo Dong-2, which some U.S. intelligence reports have estimated as capable of reaching the United States.
In response, the UN Security Council July 15 unanimously adopted Resolution 1695 condemning the launches and calling on Pyongyang to return to multilateral talks designed to resolve the crisis surrounding the country’s nuclear weapons program. North Korea’s other tests consisted of a combination of short- and medium-range Scud-C and Nodong ballistic missiles, apparently launched from the Kittaraeyong test site.
For several weeks, reports that Pyongyang might test the Taepo Dong-2 had raised concerns among the other five participants in the multilateral talks— China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. The countries had warned North Korea against such a move. (See ACT, July/August 2006.)
North Korea had not tested any longer-range missiles since its August 1998 test of the three-stage, 2,000-kilometer-range Taepo Dong-1. (See ACT, August/September 1998.) The longest-range missile Pyongyang has deployed is the 1,300-kilometer-range Nodong.
By comparison, the range of the Taepo Dong-2 is estimated to be 5,000-15,000 kilometers, according to U.S. intelligence reports. The short flight time of the test, however, complicated a more exact determination of the launch vehicle’s range and payload, according to a Department of State official who spoke to Arms Control Today Aug. 22.
In any case, the missile appears to need further testing before deployment. National security adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters July 4 that the missile, which North Korea launched from its Taepo Dong test site, failed approximately 40 seconds into its flight.
But still the tests may have helped North Korea improve its military capabilities. During a July 20 hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill argued that North Korea could have learned from the failed Taepo Dong-2 test. Moreover, the short- and medium-range missile tests may have improved Pyongyang’s broader military capabilities, the Department of State official said. Describing the tests as “pretty close to a military exercise,” the official noted that Pyongyang last conducted multiple tests of similar missiles in 1993.
North Korea is also thought to be developing additional types of missiles, including a road-mobile, intermediate-range ballistic missile reportedly based on the liquid-fueled Soviet SS-N-6. But no such missiles were tested in July, according to the State Department official. (See ACT, December 2005.)
A July 4 State Department press statement described the launches as a “provocative act” that violated North Korea’s voluntary moratorium on flight-testing longer-range missiles. Pyongyang had observed the moratorium since September 1999.
In September 2002, North Korea agreed to extend the moratorium indefinitely as part of a bilateral agreement with Japan, known as the Pyongyang Declaration. Although the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in March 2005 that the moratorium was no longer “valid,” Pyongyang implicitly reaffirmed it in a September 2005 joint statement adopted after the fourth round of six-party talks.
However, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Pak Gil Yon, stated July 17 that these past commitments were invalid because the United States and Japan had taken actions inconsistent with the associated agreements.
For example, Pak said U.S. measures to curb illicit North Korean financial transactions were inconsistent with the joint statement. He also criticized Tokyo for making the normalization of its bilateral relations with Pyongyang contingent on resolution of the nuclear issue.
Security Council Resolution
After more than a week of contentious debate, the Security Council adopted the resolution, which was a compromise between a draft introduced by Japan and another co-sponsored by China and Russia.
Beijing and Moscow, who had initially suggested that the Security Council issue a nonbinding presidential statement condemning Pyongyang’s missile launch, argued that the Japan-drafted resolution could have paved the way for punitive council measures against North Korea.
Nonetheless, the Security Council’s response to North Korea’s July launches was considerably stronger than its reaction to Pyongyang’s 1998 tests. At that time, the council issued a press statement expressing “concern” regarding the launch.
The resolution condemns North Korea’s launches and “demands” that the country suspend its ballistic-missile activities as well as re-establish its flight-testing moratorium.
The resolution also requires states to prevent missiles and related “items, materials, goods and technology” from being transferred to North Korea’s missile or weapons of mass destruction programs. It requires countries to prevent the procurement of such items from Pyongyang and the transfer of any “financial resources in relation to” North Korea’s weapons programs. In addition to its nuclear weapons program, the United States suspects that Pyongyang also has chemical and possibly biological weapons programs.
The resolution also “strongly urges” North Korea to return to the six-party talks and abandon its nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang has refused to participate in the talks since the last meeting in November 2005 despite Chinese and South Korean efforts to convince it to do so. (See ACT, January/February 2006.)
In addition, Japan and South Korea found their own ways to punish North Korea for the missile tests. For example, Tokyo imposed sanctions such as barring North Korean officials and a North Korean passenger ferry from entering Japan. According to Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, Tokyo is considering other measures to constrain the country’s nuclear and missile programs, such as targeting financial transactions with North Korea, Kyodo News Service reported July 28. South Korea followed through on a threat to halt food and fertilizer assistance to North Korea, although it provided humanitarian assistance to North Korean flood victims several weeks later.
For its part, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry stated July 16 that Pyongyang “would not be bound” by the resolution. The tests were “routine military training for self-defense,” the statement said.
Additionally, Pak indicated that Pyongyang might conduct more missile tests in the future.
Although the Security Council could again address the North Korean missile issue in the future, whether it will do so is unclear.
Hill declined to say during a July 21 press conference how Washington would respond if North Korea does not comply with the resolution.
The previous day, however, Hill testified that, in cooperation with countries such as China, the United States planned to “step up” economic pressure on Pyongyang. He also stated that Washington would increase its efforts under the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) to stop the movement of goods and materials related to weapons of mass destruction to North Korea, but he did not specify further.
PSI is a voluntary, U.S.-led initiative to interdict shipments of unconventional weapons and related components in transit at sea, on land, or in the air.
Whether the international community will continue to increase pressure on North Korea is unclear. For example, Washington appears to differ with other countries on the Security Council resolution’s scope. The Bush administration believes that the resolution prohibits a wide range of economic activity with North Korea, but some of Pyongyang’s neighbors appear to have a different view.
In an Aug. 9 interview with Arms Control Today, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Daniel Glaser described the resolution’s requirements regarding financial transactions with North Korea as “quite broad,” noting that the country is engaged in a wide range of activities that could potentially provide funds for its weapons programs. Glaser indicated that most, if not all, transactions with North Korea would be suspect because of the difficulty in distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate North Korean economic activity.
However, South Korean Foreign Minster Ban Ki-moon said July 19 that Seoul has no plans to take additional steps against North Korea, the semi-official Yonhap News Agency reported.
Hill appeared to acknowledge such differences, saying that the Bush administration wants to work with other countries to make sure that their transactions with North Korea conform to the Security Council resolution.
The July 16 North Korean Foreign Ministry statement raised concerns that Pyongyang might test a nuclear weapon. North Korea intends to “bolster its war deterrent for self-defence in every way by all means and methods,” according to the statement.
Confirming mid-August press reports that U.S. intelligence has observed signs that North Korea may be preparing to test a nuclear device, the State Department official said that Washington continues to monitor the suspect North Korean site.
However, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had no information that North Korea was preparing for a nuclear test, RIA Novosti reported Aug. 18. Additionally, a ranking South Korean Foreign Ministry official cautioned the same day that the intelligence is not definitive, according to Yonhap.
Pyongyang has never conducted such a test, although the United States has previously observed what were believed to be possible North Korean test preparations. (See ACT, June 2005.)North Korea claims to have produced both plutonium and nuclear weapons, but Hill testified July 20 that there is no evidence that Pyongyang actually has such weapons. Publicly available U.S. and Japanese assessments indicate that North Korea does not appear to be able to mate a nuclear warhead to its longer-range missiles.
The United Nations Security Council July 15 approved Resolution 1695 on North Korea’s missile program and recent missile launches. The resolution states that the Security Council “acting under its special responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security:”
1. Condemns the multiple launches by the DPRK of ballistic missiles on 5 July 2006 local time;
2. Demands that the DPRK suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile programme, and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching;
3. Requires all Member States, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, to exercise vigilance and prevent missile and missile-related items, materials, goods and technology being transferred to DPRK’s missile or WMD programmes;
4. Requires all Member States, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, to exercise vigilance and prevent the procurement of missiles or missile related-items, materials, goods and technology from the DPRK, and the transfer of any financial resources in relation to DPRK’s missile or WMD programmes;
5. Underlines, in particular to the DPRK, the need to show restraint and refrain from any action that might aggravate tension, and to continue to work on the resolution of non-proliferation concerns through political and diplomatic efforts;
6. Strongly urges the DPRK to return immediately to the Six-Party Talks without precondition, to work towards the expeditious implementation of 19 September 2005 Joint Statement, in particular to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes, and to return at an early date to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards;
7. Supports the six-party talks, calls for their early resumption, and urges all the participants to intensify their efforts on the full implementation of the 19 September 2005 Joint Statement with a view to achieving the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner and to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in north-east Asia;
8. Decides to remain seized of the matter.