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Elizabeth Philipp

UN, IAEA Denounce N. Korean Actions

The UN and IAEA criticized North Korea for continuing to test ballistic missiles and for conducting nuclear activities.  

July/August 2016

By Elizabeth Philipp

Last month, the UN Security Council condemned two new launches of North Korea’s Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) raised concerns about Pyongyang’s recent activities at a nuclear site. 

Council president François Delattre of France stated in a press release on June 23 that the Security Council “strongly condemned the most recent ballistic missile launches” by North Korea. The council released the statement after holding an emergency consultation on North Korea on June 22, following the June 21 test of two Musudan missiles. 

The “repeated launches are in grave violation” of North Korea’s obligations under Security Council resolutions, Delattre said. He expressed the “serious concern” of council members that the tests were conducted “in flagrant disregard of the repeated statements of the Security Council.” Security Council members agreed to “take further significant measures” in response to North Korea’s actions, he said. 

His statement included a call to member states to “redouble their efforts to implement fully” nonproliferation measures imposed on North Korea by the council. The council adopted Resolution 2270 in March in response to North Korea’s nuclear test on Jan. 6 and space launch using ballistic missile technology on Feb. 7. (See ACT, April 2016.)

The United States separately denounced the launches. In a White House press briefing on June 22, spokesperson Josh Earnest stated that Washington “strongly condemns the provocative actions by the North Korean government that is a flagrant violation of their international obligations.”

The two test launches on June 21 were the fifth and sixth tests of the missile system, following previous attempts in April and May 2016. (See ACT, June 2016.) The first four launches of the Musudan were failures. 

The June launches represent a “partial success” for the development of the Musudan system, according to John Schilling, spacecraft propulsion expert and engineering specialist at The Aerospace Corp. The latest missile test “finally demonstrated the full performance of the missile’s propulsion system, and at least a minimally functional guidance system,” he said in a June 23 analysis for 38 North, an online publication of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University. 

The first missile tested on June 21 exploded midflight after flying 150 kilometers, and the second one achieved a distance of 400 kilometers, according to a June 22 report in the Korea Times citing the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff. The missile is believed to have a range of up to 4,000 kilometers.

Also in June, the IAEA discussed the resumption of activities at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear site.

The activity observed by the IAEA indicates that North Korea may have restarted its five-megawatt electrical reactor, expanded enrichment capacity, or resumed reprocessing, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said in a June 6 press conference. The IAEA has not had access to the Yongbyon site since April 2009, but is “monitoring the situation, mainly through satellite imagery.” The IAEA “cannot state for sure” the type of activity at the site without inspectors on the ground, Amano said. 

The recent activity at the Yongbyon site suggests that North Korea is “preparing to commence or has already begun” reprocessing nuclear material to separate additional plutonium for weapons use, according to analysis by 38 North dated May 31. Satellite imagery shows delivery of supplies to the radiochemical laboratory and exhaust coming from that facility, according to the report. The imagery, however, indicates that the reactor is operating intermittently and at a low level. North Korea had previously shut down the reactor, but restarted it in 2013. 

Speaking to the application of nuclear safeguards in North Korea, in a statement to the IAEA Board of Governors on June 6, Amano said that he remain[s] seriously concerned about Pyongyang’s nuclear program and that it is “deeply regrettable that [North Korea] has shown no indication that it is willing to comply with the Security Council resolution adopted in response to its nuclear test earlier this year.” 

On June 7, U.S. and Chinese officials spoke on the North Korean issue while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew were in Beijing for the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Kerry met with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, where the two sides “had an in-depth exchange of views on the Korean nuclear issue,” according to Yang. At the press conference, Kerry stated that “neither one of our nations will accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, and we are both determined to fully enforce…UN Security Council Resolution 2270.”

Posted: July 5, 2016

Resuming Negotiations with North Korea


The window of opportunity to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear-armed ballistic missile systems is closing and Washington should explore every serious diplomatic overture from Pyongyang.


By Elizabeth Philipp
2016 Scoville Fellow
June 2016

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The window of opportunity to prevent North Korea from fielding nuclear-armed ballistic missiles is closing. Diplomatic engagement with North Korea has been scant in recent years. In response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests, the United States and other countries, through actions of the United Nations Security Council and independent policies, have adopted an approach of increasing political and economic isolation. Yet, during this time, Pyongyang has improved its nuclear weapons capability quantitatively and qualitatively.

The next presidential administration must prioritize reviewing and renewing Washington’s diplomatic approach to North Korea. With each successive nuclear and missile test, North Korea advances its knowledge and consolidates its capability. History has shown that it is far easier to convince North Korea to negotiate away a military capability it does not yet possess. Washington’s stated primary concern is a North Korean nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Pyongyang will achieve this capability if it is not reined in through a diplomatic agreement or understanding. Once Pyongyang achieves this status, the security balance in Asia will be disrupted and U.S. diplomats will be hard-pressed to convince North Korea to abandon the capability.

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Posted: June 24, 2016

North Korea Tests Land, Sea Missiles

In April, Pyongyang tested two new types of ballistic missiles, earning UN condemnation.

June 2016

By Elizabeth Philipp

In April, North Korea conducted a test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and three tests of an intermediate-range ballistic missile, eliciting international condemnation.

On April 28, North Korea conducted two test launches of its intermediate-range ballistic missile, known as the Musudan. The same day, U.S. Strategic Command released a statement saying that “[i]nitial indications reveal the tests were not successful.” These tests followed an earlier attempt on April 15, which failed after diverting from a normal trajectory. (See ACT, May 2016.) North Korea first displayed a mockup of the missile in an October 2010 military parade. The Musudan is estimated to have a range of up to 4,000 kilometers. 

Meeting on the same day as the Musudan launches, the UN Security Council held a closed consultation on nonproliferation in North Korea. As ACT went to print, the Security Council had not released a statement on the two Musudan launches of April 28, and Yonhap News had just reported a new failed Musudan launch on May 30. Consensus on a statement has been blocked by Russia, according to an NK News report on May 24 citing UN diplomats. The Security Council did condemn the maiden test of the Musudan on April 15. (See ACT, May 2016.)

North Korea’s SLBM test did garner Security Council condemnation. Launched April 23, the KN-11 reportedly flew 30 kilometers before exploding, according to the South Korean joint chiefs of staff cited in a May 1 Yonhap News article. The test may have been designed merely to evaluate “the submarine’s launch systems, missile ignition sequence and initial guidance operations rather than a full operational test,” according to Joseph Bermudez, chief analytics officer for AllSource Analysis, writing for 38 North, an online publication of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University. 

The Security Council “strongly condemned the firing” of the SLBM in a press statement on April 24 issued by the council’s president, Ambassador Liu Jieyi of China. The launch “constituted yet another serious violation” of several Security Council resolutions, which prohibit North Korea from “develop[ing] and testing new ballistic missile capabilities.” Liu urged UN member states to “redouble their efforts to implement” the nonproliferation measures imposed by the council’s resolutions, which aim to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and prohibit it from testing ballistic missiles. (See ACT, April 2016.)

On May 26-27, heads of state from the Group of Seven industrialized nations held a summit in the Mie Prefecture of Japan. At its conclusion, the leaders released a joint declaration that condemned “in the strongest terms” North Korea’s nuclear test and “launches using ballistic missile technology” of earlier this year. The declaration also demanded that Pyongyang “not conduct any further nuclear tests, launches, or engage in any other destabilizing or provocative actions.”

In June, Japan, South Korea, and the United States are expected for the first time to test jointly their capabilities to track North Korean missiles. According to a South Korean Defense Ministry official cited in The New York Times on May 16, the joint naval drill will test the ability to detect missile launches, track missile trajectories, and share the information. In April, high-level diplomats from the three states met in Seoul and announced that their countries would enhance their collaboration on North Korea policy in part by increasing intelligence sharing. (See ACT, May 2016.

More Nuclear and Missile Tests Pending?

North Korea’s ruling Korean Workers’ Party held its seventh Congress on May 6-9 (see box below). Ahead of the gathering, South Korean intelligence officials warned of an impending nuclear test by Pyongyang. (See ACT, May 2016.) On May 16, Lim Byeong-chol, director of South Korea’s unification ministry, said that South Korea was still bracing for another nuclear or missile test following the Congress, according to Seoul’s Yonhap News. 

According to a March 15 story published by Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared that North Korea would conduct a “nuclear warhead explosion test and a test-fire of several types of ballistic rockets capable of carrying nuclear warheads…in a short time to further increase the reliability of nuclear attack capability” and ordered preparations to be made. Another nuclear test would constitute North Korea’s fifth since 2006.

North Korea Reiterates Nuclear Posture at Congress

On May 6-9, North Korea held the seventh Congress for its ruling Korean Workers’ Party, which since 1946 has served as a forum for setting political priorities and rolling out policies. The Congress was last held in 1980, when Kim Jong Il was named heir apparent.

At the gathering, the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, spoke about Pyongyang’s nuclear posture. He stated a discretionary no-first-use policy under which, “[a]s a responsible nuclear weapons state, [North Korea] will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes, as it had already declared,” according to transcripts made available by the National Committee on North Korea, a Washington-based nongovernmental organization that focuses on U.S.-North Korean relations.

As Kim highlighted, North Korea has previously described itself as a “responsible nuclear weapons state” and declared a no-first-use policy. On Jan. 6, the North Korean government released a statement that it “will neither be the first to use nuclear weapons…under any circumstances as already declared as long as the hostile forces for aggression do not encroach upon its sovereignty.” The statement was released via the state-run Korean Central News Agency following Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test.

In the same Jan. 6 statement, North Korea stated it will not be the first to “transfer relevant means and technology” for nuclear weapons. Kim reiterated this position at the Congress, stating that Pyongyang “will faithfully fulfill its obligation for non-proliferation and strive for the global denuclearization.” North Korea has a known history of proliferating nuclear delivery technology to other states and is believed to have aided the construction of a suspected plutonium-production reactor in Syria, which was destroyed by Israel in 2007 before being completed.

Kim also stated that the “Party and the [North Korean] government will wage a vigorous struggle to radically put an end to the danger of nuclear war, imposed by the U.S., with powerful nuclear deterrence and defend the regional and global peace.” Earlier in 2016, North Korea released a propaganda film depicting a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile attack on Washington.

The 2013 constitution of North Korea describes the state as “a nuclear state and an unchallengeable military power.”

Posted: May 31, 2016

BWC Committee Makes Preparations

An April preparatory committee meeting in Geneva addressed primarily procedural topics and heard new pledges of support as countries readied for the upcoming quinquennial review...

June 2016

By Elizabeth Philipp

An April preparatory committee meeting in Geneva addressed primarily procedural topics and heard new pledges of support as countries readied for the upcoming quinquennial review conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). States will meet again Aug. 8-12 to consider more-substantive topics before the convention’s Nov. 7-25 eighth review conference. 

The participants at the April 26-27 meeting elected György Molnár, ambassador of Hungary, to serve as chairman of the committee and recommended him as president of the November review conference, following his recommendation for the position at the December 2015 annual meeting of states-parties. (See ACT, January/February 2016.) Participants reached an understanding on a provisional agenda, which is slated to be adopted in August. 

Surrounding the meeting, states-parties submitted 13 proposals in the form of working papers on ways to strengthen the BWC, among other topics. On April 27, Molnár stated that the session had laid the groundwork for substantive discussions on the states-parties proposals, according to a media update from the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). 

More proposals are expected before the August preparatory meeting, according to a UNODA political affairs officer who spoke with Arms Control Today in a May 20 phone interview. 

Also at the April preparatory meeting, the European Union pledged to provide an addition 2.3 million euros to six BWC projects over the next three years. In the past 10 years, the EU has contributed more than 6.3 million euros to the “universalisation and strengthening of the BWC,” according to a May 5 update from the UN. 

The funds will support the promotion of universal adherence to the BWC, developing national capacities for implementation, enhancing interaction with the nongovernmental scientific community, and strengthening the UN secretary-general’s mechanism for investigating alleged use of chemical and biological weapons, the official told ACT. Some of the funding will also support four regional workshops that will be held from June through September in Brazil, Ethiopia (hosted by the African Union), India, and Kazakhstan.

Posted: May 31, 2016

North Korea’s Nuclear and Missile Tests Set the Stage for Party Congress

In the four months leading up to the North Korean Workers’ Party Congress convening on May 6, the country’s young dictator, Kim Jong Un, has ordered up a dazzling display of the country’s putative prowess in nuclear weaponry. The mixed results of nuclear and missile testing may succeed in impressing Kim’s domestic audience and alarming or inciting his neighbors to the south. But the testing also demonstrates that North Korea’s achievements fall far short of its claims and that political goals rather than technological imperatives are driving weapons development programs. All Eyes on the...

North Korea Ramps Up Missile Effort

The Chinese ambassador to the United Nations called North Korea’s attempted launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile “a clear violation” of Security Council resolutions.

May 2016

By Elizabeth Philipp

North Korea has recently accelerated efforts to display advances in its ballistic missile program, conducting a test launch of one missile and a ground test of the engine for a different missile in April. 

On April 15, North Korea attempted to launch an intermediate-range ballistic missile, according to an official from the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff quoted in a Yonhap story the same day. According to the story, the Korean official described the launch as a failure, saying that after the missile lifted off, it did not maintain a “normal” trajectory. The North Korean media, which is state run, did not report the launch.

The test was of the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile, according to the officials quoted in the Yonhap story. The Musudan was first displayed in a military parade in October 2010 and was not known to have been flight-tested. 

U.S. intelligence had been tracking two mobile ballistic missile systems in the days leading up to the test, according to an April 13 report by CNN. Officials told CNN the anticipated launch would most likely be of the Musudan. 

The UN Security Council “strongly condemned” the launch in an April 15 press statement. Security Council President Liu Jieyi, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, said that although the attempted launch was “a failure,” it “constituted a clear violation” of existing council resolutions. 

The launch came less than a week after Pyongyang claimed to have successfully conducted a “ground jet test” of a “new type” of “inter-continental ballistic rocket” via an April 9 report in the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). The rocket engine was designed and produced by North Korean scientists, according to the KCNA report. The test of the rocket engine reportedly took place at the Sohae launch facility on the western coast and was guided by the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un. 

The report quoted Kim as stating that North Korea now “can tip new type inter-continental ballistic rockets with more powerful nuclear warheads,” claiming that the United States is within North Korea’s striking range, and emphasizing “the need to diversify nuclear attack means.” 

The KCNA report did not specify for which intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) models the engine was designed. According to John Schilling, a specialist in satellite and launch vehicle propulsion systems at the Aerospace Corporation, the photographs of the test published by the KCNA indicate that North Korea tested a liquid-fueled engine comprising a pair of Soviet-designed 4D10 missile engines. If nuclear-armed KN-08 or KN-14 ICBMs were to be outfitted with this new engine, it would give the missiles a range of 10,000 to 13,000 kilometers, Schilling wrote in an April 11 analysis published on 38 North, an online publication of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University. This test, however, indicates that Pyongyang likely “still lacks the ability to design (or buy) engines any larger than the 4D10,” Schilling wrote. The KN-08 and KN-14 are ICBMs under development in North Korea, but neither has been flight-tested. 

In March, North Korea claimed to have conducted a simulation test of a re-entry vehicle. (See ACT, April 2016.) This information, coupled with the ground engine test, indicates that North Korea “might be far enough along to conduct flight tests in as little as a year,” Schilling said. On this timeline, Pyongyang may be able to deploy a complete delivery system by 2020 “in a limited operational capability,” he wrote. 

Meanwhile, in late April, South Korea was bracing for a fifth nuclear test by North Korea. President Park Geun-hye said that preparations for such a test had been detected, according to a Yonhap story on April 18. Park then reportedly ordered her military to “maintain readiness” to “sternly retaliate” against North Korea, according to the report. North Korea last conducted a nuclear test on Jan. 6. (See ACT, January/February 2016.)

North Korea is “several years” away from being capable of mounting a nuclear warhead on an ICBM, according to a senior South Korean government official quoted in The New York Times on April 5. North Korea is able to arm its medium-range Nodong ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead, according to the official, who was cited as saying that South Korea did not have evidence that North Korea has deployed nuclear-armed Nodong missiles.

Posted: April 27, 2016

States Deepen Cooperation on N. Korea

Senior officials from Japan, South Korea, and the United States agreed to increase intelligence sharing and set up consultations on sanctions implementation. 

May 2016

By Elizabeth Philipp

Senior officials from Japan, South Korea, and the United States announced last month that they will bolster their cooperation in responding to North Korea’s recent moves in its nuclear and missile programs.

Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki, South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed strategic coordination on North Korea policy when they met April 19-20 in Seoul. At an April 20 press briefing, Blinken cited increased intelligence sharing as an example of the ways in which the three states will enhance their collaboration on North Korea policy, according to a Yonhap report. The three states also will set up trilateral consultations on sanctions implementation, including those for UN Security Council Resolution 2270, which the council adopted March 2. 

On Jan. 6, Pyongyang conducted its fourth underground nuclear test and, on Feb. 7, conducted a space launch using ballistic missile technology. Pyongyang has, in addition, announced additional advances in its delivery systems in recent weeks and months. (See ACT, May 2016.

The high-level meetings in South Korea followed world leaders’ calls at the nuclear security summit in Washington earlier this year for a greater effort to counter North Korea’s nuclear advances. In remarks on March 31, U.S. President Barack Obama called for states to use existing nonproliferation infrastructure, stating that “it is important to the entire international community to vigilantly enforce the strong UN security measures.” 

Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and South Korean President Park Geun-hye met on the sidelines of the summit and “discussed ways to deepen [their] cooperation” with the goal of “deterring the North Korean nuclear threat and the potential of nuclear proliferation as a consequence of North Korean activities,” Obama said at the joint press conference after the meeting. 

Park said North Korea would be “certain to find itself facing even tougher sanctions and isolation” if there were “further provocations” from Pyongyang.

Also in April, the United Nations added to the list of items that its member states are barred from sending to North Korea under Resolution 2270, which the Security Council adopted March 2. 

Román Oyarzun Marchesi of Spain, the chair of the specialized sanctions committee on North Korea, delivered the list to the Security Council in an April 4 letter. The list includes items that are usable in programs to produce nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons or to produce missiles. 

China has continued to take steps to implement the sanctions imposed by Resolution 2270. On April 7, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced a new list of mineral products that cannot be bought from North Korea. The list of additional banned items was adopted “[i]n order to carry out relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council” and includes imports to China from North Korea of coal, iron, gold, and rare earth minerals, as well as exports to North Korea from China of certain aircraft and rocket fuels, with some limited exceptions to the bans, according to the official announcement. 

China has undertaken similar national bans in the past in order to implement UN resolutions, including an executive order to reinforce a blacklist instituted by Security Council Resolution 1874 in 2009, according to Yang Xiyu, a former Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs official speaking at an April 20 press briefing in Washington held by the U.S.-Korea Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. China has banned more than 900 items for export to North Korea, Yang said. 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated his appreciation for China’s actions at the meeting in Hiroshima on April 11 of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized countries. “China has an enormous ability to send a message to and have an impact on North Korea. And China, we are pleased, joined us in doing some things that have an impact” on North Korea, Kerry said.

Also at the G7 meeting, Kerry stated that the United States has “made it clear that [it is] prepared to negotiate a peace treaty on the [Korean] peninsula,” as well as a “non-aggression agreement” and that the United States is prepared to “welcome the North back to the community of nations.” But in describing these moves toward diplomatic thawing, Kerry emphasized that it “all depends on the North making the decision that they will negotiate denuclearization.”

In March, Kerry had delivered remarks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during which Wang had called for “parallel track” negotiations with North Korea to address both the conclusion of a peace treaty and a denuclearization agreement. (See ACT, April 2016.) At that time, Kerry did not echo Wang’s call for peace talks.

Posted: April 27, 2016

States Adopt New North Korea Sanctions

A recent UN Security Council resolution imposes new and broader restrictions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s recent nuclear test and space launch.

April 2016

By Elizabeth Philipp

The UN Security Council on March 2 unanimously adopted a resolution imposing new and broader sanctions aimed at stemming advances in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and its arms trade with other states.

Resolution 2270, prompted by Pyongyang’s nuclear test on Jan. 6 and launch of a satellite using ballistic missile technology on Feb. 7, is the fifth resolution passed by the council on North Korea and nonproliferation since 2006.

The new resolution is “the strongest message” that the Security Council has delivered to North Korea since Pyongyang decided to abandon the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Román Oyarzun Marchesi, Spanish ambassador to the United Nations and chair of the council’s specialized sanctions committee on North Korea, said during a March 2 press briefing.

North Korea announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003, an action that NPT members have not officially recognized.

Oyarzun highlighted a “number of new elements” in the resolution, including a ban on the export of aviation fuel to North Korea, a requirement that states expel North Korean representatives engaged in activities prohibited by previous Security Council resolutions on North Korea, a requirement that states inspect all North Korean goods transiting their territories, “severe restrictions” on North Korea’s ability to operate a fleet of foreign-flagged vessels, a ban on the export of specialized minerals, and “unprecedented” provisions on banking.

The resolution closes gaps in the arms embargo imposed by the earlier resolutions, he said. It also blocks North Korea’s access to its assets in other countries, imposes a travel ban on more than two dozen new entities and individuals, and names 31 specific vessels subject to the asset freeze.

Enforcing the Resolution

States have begun to enforce the new nonproliferation measures, specifically the requirement of states to inspect all cargo within their territory traveling to or from North Korea by land, air, or sea to ensure that no items are transferred in violation of Security Council resolutions.

In a March 5 story, the Associated Press quoted Charles Jose, spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, as saying that his government will impound a North Korean ship, the MV Jin Teng. The cargo ship is listed in an annex to the new resolution as being owned by a sanctioned North Korean company. Under the resolution, the Philippines is required to inspect the vessel for illicit goods and repatriate the North Korean crew. Through an official at the Philippine embassy in Washington, Jose told Arms Control Today in a March 20 email that “the Philippines continues to hold [the] MV Jing Teng” and that Philippine authorities “found nothing suspicious or irregular” when they inspected the ship’s cargo. The Philippines subsequently released the ship, according to a March 24 Reuters report.

In a March 21 press release, the Security Council announced that four ships listed in the annex, including the Jin Teng, are no longer considered “economic resources controlled or operated by [the sanctioned North Korean company] and therefore not subject to the asset freeze.”

North Korea Sanctions Flawed, UN Panel Says

A UN panel has determined that “there are serious questions about the efficacy of the current United Nations sanctions regime” against North Korea and that Pyongyang’s illicit nuclear and missile activities are “facilitated by [member states’] low level of implementation of Security Council resolutions.”

The panel report, which was released Feb. 24, describes North Korea’s disregard for the council’s past demands, finding “no indications that the country intends to abandon” its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It cites Pyongyang’s advancements during the period covered by the report, from February of last year to this February, including launches of short-range and submarine-launched ballistic missiles and a nuclear test in January.

The multinational panel of experts was established in 2009 and has issued reports nearly annually since then.

Despite existing financial sanctions that aim to limit its access to the international financial system, North Korea “continues to gain access to and exploit” the system by using aliases and a network of front companies, among other measures of deception, the panel said. Transactions that circumvented financial sanctions directly contributed to North Korea’s ability to launch a rocket in December 2012, the report says. According to the Security Council, the space launch violated previous resolutions because it used ballistic missile technology.

North Korea also “remains actively engaged in the trade of arms and related materiel,” according to the report. Pyongyang has attempted to ship various arms-related equipment to Egypt and Syria in recent years, as well as engage in other banned activity with states in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, the report says.

The report includes several recommendations for the Security Council, including encouraging member states to fulfill obligations to report on their sanctions enforcement activities and demanding that the states prevent the training of North Korean scientists in sensitive fields that “could contribute” to the country’s prohibited programs. The panel also suggests several corporation names and aliases to be added to the list of entities and individuals subject to financial sanctions.

Security Council Resolution 2270, adopted on March 2, appears to respond to several of the key issues that the report raises.—ELIZABETH PHILIPP

    National Sanctions

    Individual states have ramped up sanctions against North Korea in light of the country’s nuclear and missile tests. Japan, South Korea, and the United States have stated an intent to undertake new national nonproliferation measures against North Korea.

    On March 16, U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order prohibiting certain financial transactions with Pyongyang and freezing U.S.-based North Korean assets. The order fills legal gaps in U.S. implementation of Resolution 2270 and the new sanctions adopted by the United States on Feb. 18.

    The South Korean Ministry of Unification announced new national sanctions on North Korea on March 8. South Korea will expand targeted financial sanctions against individuals and entities responsible for the development of nonconventional weapons and “strengthen control over shipping related to North Korea,” according to a statement made by Lee Suk-joon, minister of government policy coordination, on behalf of several government agencies. Seoul also promised to “fully implement existing sanctions” by “strengthening on-the-spot crackdowns and control” over shipments between North and South Korea. On Feb. 10, Seoul announced the unilateral closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint venture between the two Koreas. Pyongyang and Seoul have suspended activity at Kaesong amid tensions in the past. South Korea has enforced “comprehensive sanctions” against North Korea since 2010, according to the ministry statement.

    Japan said in a Feb. 10 statement that it also has undertaken “measures of its own” against North Korea. The new sanctions against Pyongyang are aimed at taking “the most effective approach toward the comprehensive resolution of outstanding issues of concern, such as the…nuclear, and missile issues,” Japan said. The sanctions include restrictions on the movement of persons between North Korea and Japan, a ban on large cash transfers from Japan to North Korea, and a ban on entry to Japanese ports of all North Korean-flagged vessels “including those for humanitarian purposes.” Japan also declared an asset freeze on additional entities and individuals.

    China, however, denounced national sanctions on North Korea. In a statement on March 17, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang stated that “China never approves unilateral sanctions by any country” and that “unilateral sanctions taken by any country must not affect and harm the legitimate rights and interests of China.”

    The Chinese government prefers to operate under the “cover of UN Security Council resolutions” rather than enacting national sanctions, China expert Jonathan Pollack of the Brookings Institution said in a March 22 interview, although China is “seriously intent” on implementing the resolution.

    In recent weeks, North Korea has continued to issue threats, including some against the United States, through the state-run Korean Central News Agency. It has also made claims that it has miniaturized a nuclear device and made progress toward developing a re-entry vehicle, two steps required for a deployable, long-range nuclear-armed missile. The South Korean Defense Ministry discounted Pyongyang’s claim to have mastered the technology for building a re-entry vehicle, but acknowledged that North Korea “may have made significant strides” toward a miniaturized nuclear device, according to a March 18 report from Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency.

    Posted: March 29, 2016

    China Backs Peace Talks for North Korea

    China is proposing “parallel tracks” to address North Korea’s desire for a peace treaty and the international community’s concerns about Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

    April 2016

    By Elizabeth Philipp

    China is proposing that key countries work on “parallel tracks” to address North Korea’s desire for a peace treaty and the international community’s concerns about Pyongyang’s nuclear program, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last month.

    In comments at a March 8 press conference in Beijing, he said that “denuclearization is the firm goal of the international community, while replacing the armistice is a legitimate concern” of North Korea. The 1953 armistice established a cease-fire in the Korean War, which divided the peninsula, but the conflict never formally concluded with a peace treaty.

    Wang said that the issues of denuclearization and the peace treaty “can be negotiated in parallel, implemented in steps, and resolved with reference to each other” and that China is “open to any and all initiatives that can help bring the nuclear issue on the peninsula back to the negotiating table.” North Korea has frequently called for the conclusion of a peace treaty through statements in its state-run media.

    Wang delivered a similar message about the two-track approach in earlier joint remarks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Feb. 23 in Washington. Wang said China “hope[s] that, in the near future, there will be an opportunity emerging for the resumption of the peace talks, of the six-party talks.” Those talks, which sought the dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, were held from 2003, when North Korea announced its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to 2009, when Pyongyang abandoned the talks.

    Wang acknowledged that “certain parties have different views” on his two-track proposal. He apparently was referring to the United States, which maintains that denuclearization is its first priority.

    At a March 3 press briefing, State Department spokesman John Kirby said that “nothing is going to change about [the U.S.] belief that first and foremost there has to be denuclearization.” Washington has not “ruled out the possibility that there could sort of be some sort of parallel process here. But—and this is not a small ‘but’—there has to be denuclearization on the peninsula and work through the six-party process to get there,” he said.

    Sung Kim, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, reinforced the position in a March 8 interview with Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency, saying that his country’s “number one priority goal” of denuclearization “has not changed at all.”

    At the Feb. 23 press conference, Kerry did not reciprocate Wang’s endorsement of a parallel process. Kerry reported on the details of his meeting with Wang, stating that the two discussed ways to deepen cooperation on bringing North Korea “back to the table for the purpose of the six-party talks and particularly discussions about denuclearization.”

    The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that North Korea and the United States had been preparing for peace treaty negotiations via exchanges at the United Nations. In a Feb. 21 story, the paper reported that, in the days before Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test, “the Obama administration secretly agreed to talks to try to formally end the Korean War, dropping a longstanding condition that Pyongyang first take steps to curtail its nuclear arsenal.” The subsequent nuclear test killed the diplomatic effort, the report said.

    Kirby rebutted some of the article’s key points in an email to Reuters the same day. He said that “it was the North Koreans who proposed discussing a peace treaty.” He stated that Washington “carefully considered” the proposal but insisted that “denuclearization had to be part of any such discussion.” Ultimately, North Korea rejected the U.S. response, he said.

    The U.S. response to the North Korean proposal “was consistent with our longstanding focus on denuclearization,” Kirby said.

    Posted: March 29, 2016

    Stemming North Korean Proliferation Today

    North Korea has no intention of abandoning its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, said a panel of experts mandated by the UN Security Council in a report dated Feb. 24. The panel, part of one subsidiary committee of the Security Council, oversees council sanctions on North Korea. But in the report, the panel highlighted that “there are serious questions about the efficacy of the current United Nations sanctions regime.” Given North Korea’s intentions to expand its nuclear and missile programs, enforcing sanctions designed to prevent Pyongyang from obtaining the materials and technologies...


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