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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

UNSC Roundup

by | December 13th, 2012 | 11:00 am

The official US statement on the launch was a bit slow in coming, but when it did it focused strongly on further UN Security Council action (text here). At the time of the failed April 2012 launch, the US secured support for a Presidential Statement that was stronger than the tepid compromise Presidential Statement of April 13, 2009.  For example, the 2012 Statement subjected new companies to the asset freeze, banned new technologies for transfer to North Korea, and promised more intensive monitoring of enforcement through an updated work program for the sanctions committee; a US Mission Fact Sheet provides a useful summary.

However, one throwaway line at the end of the Presidential Statement will now be put to the test: “The Security Council expresses its determination to take action accordingly in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test.” Prior to the UNSC condemnation of the launch, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman was already backpeddling from this consensus, arguing that “the Security Council reaction should be prudent and moderate, conducive to peace and stability, avoiding an escalation of the situation.”

Given the coming debate, we thought it would be useful to review some posts that may be of interest for understanding likely developments:

  • One important issue is the question of whether the UNSC had a right to curtail North Korea’s rights to peaceful use of space.
  • We secured point-counterpoint responses on the broader question of UNSC powers from Jared Genser, who argues that the Security Council has quite expansive powers, and Dan Joyner who expressed doubts.
  • These issues were related to the question of whether there was a difference—substanative or legal—between a space launch vehicle and a ballistic missile; Chris Kessler did the honors of demolishing the substantive argument, while we posted the North Korean legal defense.
  • Perhaps most important issue looking forward: in a long post in April, we reviewed the history of North Korean responses to Security Council actions. The short version: Pyongyang tends to escalate in their wake rather than stand down. In fact, two missile tests that met UN condemnation through formal UNSC actions were subsequently followed by nuclear tests. If strong sanctions are forthcoming, will the North Koreans test again?
  • Finally, on a somewhat different topic, UN General Assembly votes on human right resolutions show a declining willingness to support North Korea or even abstain.