The UNSC Had Passed A New Resolution on North Korea Pursuing Its Nuclear Ambitions Aimed at Preventing the DPRK from Exploiting Loopholes
United Nations Security Council Considers Human Rights Situation in DPRK, on Dec. 9, 2016. Before taking up the subject of the human rights situation in Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Security Council narrowly adopted a procedural vote to authorize discussion of the topic. The votes were 9 in favour to 5 against (Angola, China, Egypt, Russian Federation, Venezuela), with 1 abstention (Senegal). Council members signal their opposition to discussion of the issue.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has passed a new resolution aimed at preventing North Korea from exploiting loopholes in past sanctions to pursue its nuclear ambitions. The latest sanctions, which were approved at a meeting in New York City on Nov. 30, 2016, mainly target Pyongyang's coal earnings, according to the U.N. news. Accordingly, starting January 1, 2017, they have restricted North Korea's annual exports of coal, a major source of hard currency and its single largest export item, to US$400 million or 7.5 million tons, whichever is lower in value. The international community will be banned from leasing aircraft and ships and their crew to North Korea unless the UNSC allows it in advance. Employing North Koreans on foreign-flagged airplanes and ships will also be prohibited. The sanction will not allow the sale of statues by North Korea. North Korea has been suspected of mobilizing its artists for propagandathemed projects in dictatorial states to prop up its cash-strapped regime. Concerning North Korea's exploitation of its laborers abroad, the sanctions asked U.N. members states to express concerns. It newly adds rugs or tapestries worth more than US$500 and porcelain or bone china tableware valued at more than $100 to the list of banned items. On November 30, the UNSC approved a fresh batch of sanctions following North Korea's fifth nuclear test, seeking primarily to slash the state's coal exports to China by nearly 60% and prohibit trade of copper, nickel and other minerals. Resolution 2321 is designed to further stifle Pyongyang's financial and maritime networks, diplomatic activities and overseas labor exports, while levying a new embargo on sales of statues, helicopters, ships and other items. It also called for tighter inspections on North Korean cargo and expanded the list of entities and individuals subject to an asset freeze and travel ban. The North's underground detonation in September defied a previous resolution the council imposed only six months before in response to the North's fourth nuclear test and another long-range missile test-fire. They also newly blacklisted 10 entities and 11 individuals, many of who are suspected of helping the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID). The KOMID sells coal and other natural resources to raise cash for the Kim Jong-un regime's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The 11 individuals include two ambassadors - Park Chul-il and Kim Sok-chol who served in Egypt and Myanmar, respectively. Among the 10 entities are banks and trading companies, such as the Korea United Development Bank, Ilsim International Bank, Korea Daesong Bank, Korea Foreign Technical Trade Center and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation. The blacklisted entities mainly operate under the North Korean military and Office 39, a secret government branch that directly reports to Kim Jong-un concerning the use of cash.
The new sanction came in response to North Korea's fifth nuclear test on September 9, since which the effectiveness of UNSC Resolution 2270 has been called into question. Resolution 2270 was adopted to punish Pyongyang for its fourth nuclear test in January and end the reclusive state's development of weapons of mass destruction. It, however, allowed North Korea's to export coal if such transactions were "determined to be exclusively for livelihood purposes." According to the U.N. news, the United States convinced China to step up punishment against North Korea after spending over two months on negotiations. China is believed to be the only country that now buys North Korean coal, according to Reuters. China has imported 18.6 million tons of coal from North Korea over the first 10 months of this year, up almost 13% from 2015. Seoul and Washington kicked off negotiations with the goal of "plugging loopholes" in the existing sanctions, such as a clause allowing coal trade for "livelihood purposes," which they argue Pyongyang had been taking advantage of. However, negotiations with the other four veto powers had dragged out, chiefly due to the resistance of China, the North's top trade partner and diplomatic backer. The latest resolution took 83 days - the longest-ever - until its introduction. Seoul welcomed the U.N. resolutions, saying that the measures, if successful, could cut the cash-strapped Kim Jong-un regime's hard currency earnings by at least US$800 million. "The latest resolution marks another milestone in imposing the most robust and comprehensive non-military sanctions in U.N. history on North Korea for its habitual violations of the U.N. Charter and UNSC resolutions," said Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se at a news conference. "The North must bear in mind the council's warnings. It might face not only deepened economic trouble and diplomatic isolation, but also a suspension of its rights and privileges as a U.N. member state, unless it makes a strategic decision to take the path toward denuclearization." Natural resources are the top source of foreign currency for North Korea. Statistics from Beijing's National Bureau of Statistics of China show that in 2015 the country sold 19.6 million tons of coal to China, amounting to more than US$1 billion. In October, the coal revenue reached US$102 million, up about 22% from a month before and nearly 70% higher than a year ago, Voice of America reported, citing Seoul's Korea International Trade Association that compiled official Chinese data. During the monthlong period, coal took the largest share of North Korea's total exports to China, at almost 45%, followed by clothes and seafood. The council also slapped a fresh ban on sales of four minerals - copper, nickel, silver and zinc - extending the existing roster that includes iron, iron ore, vanadium and gold. The four metals generate around US$100 million in revenue every year, the Seoul diplomat said.
The copper embargo is expected to deal a blow not only to Pyongyang, but also some Chinese mining companies. An affiliate with China's Wanxiang Group has reportedly invested more than KRƒ 28 billion (US$23.8 million) in developing copper mines in the North Korean border town of Hyesan since it acquired exclusive mineral rights through a joint venture in 2007. "There have been fierce back-to-back negotiations. It was indeed important to adopt a resolution as soon as possible, and compromise could have been reached earlier, but we opted instead to pursue a more complete set of measures, although it took more time," said a senior official at South Korea's Foreign Ministry. He said, "Beijing's agreement to the sanctions seems to reflect its thinking that it needs to take action given (the North's) behavior - it conducted two nuclear tests and more missile liftoffs within one year - which runs counter to China's self-perception or pursuit as a world power." In another new step, the resolution will bar the North's sales of helicopters, ships and statues. The communist regime runs offices in charge of building sculptures, namely in Senegal, Angola, Namibia and other African nations, with one major contract being worth up to tens of millions of dollars, the official noted. On finance, the text instructed U.N. member states to shut down all remaining relevant offices and bank accounts in the North within 90 days, except for humanitarian relief or other inevitable purposes. They can no longer provide any public or private export credits, guarantees or trade insurances. It also calls for all members to reduce the workforce at the North's overseas diplomatic missions and limit the number of bank accounts to one per mission and diplomat each in an apparent bid to prevent diplomats' illicit activities abroad. Inspections will toughen on sea, air and land cargo, as well as personal baggage, coming in and out of the country. Though not mandatory, the resolution called member states' attention to the regime's dispatch of overseas workers, which it said is aimed at obtaining hard currency to bankroll its nuclear and missile programs.