posted on Tue 20 Mar 2018 6:16 PM
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK): Panel of Experts Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow morning (21 March), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1718 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee. The draft resolution follows closely the language of the previous mandate renewal in resolution 2345. The mandate is to be extended for 13 months and the Panel is expected to submit a midterm report to the Council by 7 September 2018 and a final report no later than 14 March 2019. While the draft resolution indicates that the Panel’s mandate will apply with respect to measures imposed by resolutions 2356, 2371, 2375 and 2397—all adopted in 2017, adding new, tougher sanctions measures—it does not modify the Panel’s mandate or expand the number of experts as a result of the new measures.

This adoption comes shortly after the circulation of the final report of the Panel of Experts to the Council on 1 March. The report, which was sent to the Committee on 1 February, was discussed in the Committee on 21 February. One of the overall conclusions of the report is that the DPRK is accessing the global financial system through deceptive practices which have been combined with “critical deficiencies in the implementation of financial sanctions”. It notes that the expansion of the sanctions regime over the last year has not been matched by the “requisite political will, international coordination, prioritization and resource allocation necessary to drive effective implementation”. It therefore warns that 2018 could represent a critical window of opportunity before a potential miscalculation could cause dangerous implications for international peace and security.

The report addresses the implementation of measures under four main categories: ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction; sectoral sanctions; embargoes, designated entities and individuals; and finance. It also has a section on the unintended impact of sanctions focused on the humanitarian impact. The report highlights the multi-million dollar business of illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum and the continued export of commodities under sanctions, which generated $200 million in revenue between January and September 2017. It also covers how the DPRK has managed to continue to illegally export coal in spite of the sanctions. The report provides information on prohibited military cooperation projects between the DPRK and a number of countries, including ballistic missile cooperation with Syria and Myanmar. It also focuses on the role that DPRK diplomats have played in helping the DPRK continue to engage in prohibited programmes.

Many of the recommendations focus on addressing gaps in the implementation of sanctions in the various categories. They include recommendations related to updating the list of individuals and entities, as well as suggestions for new designations of both individuals and entities. There are a number of recommendations related to tightening the implementation of financial sanctions. The report notes that the Panel’s investigations showed that the DPRK is exploiting the global oil supply chains and using willing foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system to flout recent Council resolutions. In addressing the unintended impact of the sanctions, the Panel recommends that member states report, as part of their national reporting, on the incorporation of humanitarian exemptions into their domestic legislation. It seems that while most members were open to the recommendations of the panel, China has asked for more time to consider the recommendations. It seems that further discussion will be needed to get a better idea of how many of the recommendations the Committee will be able to agree on.

These discussions are taking place in the context of significant developments on the political front. The thaw in relations between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and DPRK, following the DPRK’s participation in the Winter Olympics held in Pyeongchang, ROK, led to a meeting on 6 March between senior ROK envoys and DPRK’s supreme leader Kim Jong-Un during which both sides agreed to an inter-Korean summit of the leaders of the DPRK and ROK in late April. This would be the first summit since 2007. This was followed by a meeting between ROK envoys and US President Donald Trump on 6 March, where Trump accepted an invitation from Kim, conveyed through ROK National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong, to meet to discuss the DPRK’s nuclear programme. Preparations are now underway for this summit meeting of the two leaders, which is currently planned for May.

While the activities related to these meetings are taking place outside the Council, the DPRK sanctions committee may be asked to consider granting travel exemptions if any of the individuals on the sanctions list are part of the delegation for these meetings. Council members have been following the developments with interest, and while China and Russia suggested that the Council welcome these developments in a press statement, it seems that there was opposition from at least one permanent member.

Joint ROK-US military exercises that were put on hold during the winter Olympics will now take place on 1 April and continue until the end of the month. Although Pyongyang in the past has asked for the suspension of these military exercises before it would consider negotiations, it seems that the ROK envoys were told in their meeting with Kim that he understood that the joint military exercises between the ROK and the US would continue. However, these exercises are likely to be carefully watched by Council members as they have in the past led to strong reactions from the DPRK.