posted on Tue 3 Mar 2015 5:22 PM
Mandate Renewal of DPRK Panel of Experts and Panel Report

Tomorrow morning (4 March), the Security Council will adopt a resolution extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1718 Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee. The proposed text, which was put in blue yesterday, closely follows the language of the previous mandate renewal (resolution 2141) making little change to the mandate of the Panel. According to the draft, the mandate is to be extended for 13 months (until 5 April 2016) and the Panel will be requested to provide a midterm report to the Committee by 5 August 2015 and a final report no later than 5 February 2016.

Later this month, the Committee will continue its discussion of the Panel’s final report under resolution 2141. The report was issued to the Committee in January and then submitted to the Council following an initial discussion in the Committee on 11 February. It was made available on the UN website today (S/2015/131).

The report paints a distressing picture of continued widespread and systematic violations of the DPRK sanctions regime. According to the report, there has been no change in the DPRK’s behaviour and no indication that the country intends to comply with the Council’s demands to stop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. On the contrary, the Panel cites widespread evidence of “resilience and adaptation in the DPRK’s efforts to circumvent” the measures imposed by the Council. A major part of the report focuses on the continued activities of the Ocean Maritime Management Company (OMM), which was designated by the Sanctions Committee on 28 July 2014 as subject to an asset freeze for its involvement in the Chong Chon Gang case. (OMM played a key role in arranging the shipment of arms from Cuba to the DPRK on board the Chong Chon Gang in July 2013.) The report documents how the OMM has been able to evade sanctions by changing the registration and ownership of vessels controlled by the company.

Furthermore, the report highlights the role played by DPRK diplomats and trade representatives in facilitating the trade of prohibited items such as arms and related materiel as well as ballistic missile-related material. It also notes as a persistent problem the lack of effective implementation of the sanctions regimes by UN member states, especially in Africa, whether due to a lack of political will, limited technical capacity or domestic legal issues. Annexes to the report include detailed information on the status of submission of implementation reports by member states and their responsiveness to questions submitted by the Panel and member countries.

In response to the widespread sanctions violations documented in the report, the Panel makes a number of substantive recommendations, including four specifically directed at the Sanctions Committee. This includes a recommendation to designate several individuals and an entity that have worked for the OMM or the Ryonha Machinery Joint Venture Corporation (the latter was designated by the Committee in January 2013) or on their behalf or at their direction and/or have assisted in the evasion of sanctions or violated relevant resolutions. (The names are contained in a confidential annex to the report.) A second recommendation proposes that the Committee updates the sanctions list to better target the OMM by adding an alias and names of new companies established by the OMM to avoid sanctions along with five “OMM individuals”. It also proposes that aliases be added to the listings for the General Bureau of Atomic Energy, the Korean Committee for Space Technology, the Ryonha Machinery Joint Venture Corporation and the Second Academy of Natural Sciences.

A further recommendation is for the Committee to clarify implementation of the assets freeze, in particular as it relates to vessels, possibly through an addendum to the Implementation Assistance Notice of 28 July 2014 on the Chong Chon Gang case. More specifically, the Panel recommends that the Committee clarifies that vessels are included in the terms “assets” and “resources” used in resolutions 1718 and 2094 and that all vessels owned or controlled by the OMM are subject to the assets freeze. The Panel also recommends that the Committee provides additional guidance on the term “freeze” and specifies that member states should communicate to the Committee information on any transfer of DPRK vessels to other companies that may have been undertaken to evade sanctions or are in violation of relevant sanctions provisions.

Finally, the panel recommends that the Committee propose to the Council an exemption to the sanctions regime for items that are solely for food, agricultural, medical or other humanitarian purposes. (This would add to an existing formulation included in the DPRK sanctions provisions stating that the measures “are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population of the DPRK”.) Although the Panel acknowledges that it has found no evidence that the sanctions provisions have resulted in shortages of food or have negatively affected humanitarian aid, it notes that some member states have reported that their diplomatic missions in the DPRK have experienced operational difficulties because of the sanctions. (At the initiative of Russia, the Committee on 26 June 2014 issued an Implementation Assistance Notice to remind member states that sanctions are not intended to affect activities of diplomatic missions in the DPRK.)

Additionally, the report contains a number of recommendations directed at UN member states. Among other things, it calls on states to improve their reporting to the Committee, review their national legal frameworks to ensure compliance with all sanctions provisions, in particular the assets freeze, to enhance their vigilance with regard to the activities of DPRK diplomatic personnel and exercise due diligence with regard to the export of certain items that can be used for prohibited purposes.

In addition to the initial consideration of the Panel’s report by the Committee on 11 February, Council members discussed the DPRK and the report during informal consultations on 26 February when they received the 90-day briefing from the chair of the 1718 Committee, Ambassador Román Oyarzun (Spain). During these initial discussions, it seems Council members generally welcomed the report and praised the Panel’s work, reflecting what is described as a growing consensus that the quality of the Panel’s output has been steadily improving since the first report was produced in 2010, in particular with regard to providing more detailed evidence. Nevertheless, there are still sharp divisions among members when it comes to the practical implementation of the sanctions regime. While the P3 and likeminded members expressed support for most of the Panel’s recommendations and stressed the importance of ensuring effective implementation of the sanctions regime, China, Russia and others reiterated that sanctions are not an end in themselves, stressed the importance of dialogue and diplomacy—including the resumption of the six-party talks involving China, the DPRK, Japan, the ROK, Russia and the US—and cautioned against actions that might provoke the DPRK and increase tensions in the region.

Although there have been limited comments on specific recommendations so far, it seems China and others questioned whether enough evidence had been presented to make the case for some of the proposed new designations. Interestingly, the humanitarian exemption recommendation apparently enjoys the support of China and Russia, while the P3 believe it is unnecessary. Other Council members have not yet expressed strong views.

In light of the continued differences in perspective among Council members, the discussions in the Committee on the Panel’s recommendations are expected to be difficult. It remains to be seen whether recent provocations by Pyongyang will influence members’ positions. Adding to the DPRK’s hostile rhetoric normally associated with the US – Republic of Korea annual joint military exercises under way this week, Pyongyang was reported to have fired another two missiles into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula yesterday and today its foreign minister, Ri Su-Yong, reportedly said in a statement to the UN Conference on Disarmament that the DPRK had the capability to deter “an ever-increasing nuclear threat” by the US with a pre-emptive strike if necessary.