In ‘Strong’ Response to Missile Launch, Security Council to Activate Sanctions Approved 30 Months Ago

By Patrick Goodenough | April 14, 2009 | 4:49 AM EDT

The U.N. Security Council meets on Monday, April 13, 2009 to finalize a statement on North Korea’s missile launch. (AP Photo)

( –  The U.N. Security Council -- after a week of deliberation -- issued a non-binding statement Monday, condemning North Korea for its recent long-range rocket launch.  
Opposition from China and Russia forced the Security Council to stop short of passing a legally binding resolution.
The non-binding statement agreed to enforce sanctions imposed earlier against Pyongyang, and it called on all states to comply with their obligations under a 2006 council resolution.
That resolution, 1718, provided for a Security Council committee to monitor sanctions, but the committee, reluctant to antagonize North Korea and jeopardize “six-party” nuclear talks, has up to now not done so.
Monday’s council decision, although carrying less weight than a resolution, drew a sharp response from North Korea, which said it would bolster its nuclear deterrent and withdraw from the six-party talks. (See related story)
North Korea on April 5 launched what it said was a rocket carrying a communications satellite into orbit, and what the U.S. military identified as a Taepodong-2 long-range ballistic missile. The multi-stage projectile, which flew over Japan, traveled more than 1,800 miles before ditching in the Pacific Ocean, according to the Japanese government.
Japan, the country most directly threatened by the launch, wanted a tough resolution, and had U.S. support for its stance. But veto-wielding China, North Korea’s neighbor and closest diplomatic ally, resisted the move, with Russia’s backing.

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui speaks during a U.N. Security Council meeting on North Korea on Monday, April 13, 2009. (AP Photo)

The statement approved by the 15-member council Monday was a compromise, but one which Japanese and U.S. envoys both described in favorable terms, as “strong” and unanimous.
The White House said in a statement President Obama welcomed the “clear and united message” that the North Korean action was unlawful and would have real consequences.
Resolution 1718, passed after North Korea tested a nuclear weapon in 2006, envisaged consequences too. Demanding an end to Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests, it imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on officials (and their family members) involved in the weapons programs, and banned the transfer of missiles and other military equipment to North Korea. States were called upon to inspect cargoes arriving in and leaving the country for weapons of mass destruction and WMD-related items.
To oversee those measures, the resolution established a sanctions committee comprising all 15 council members. It was meant to monitor the sanctions and report every 90 days. Instead, it did little more than adopt operating “guidelines” the following June, and not one North Korean entity or company was blacklisted.
During 2007 the committee held one formal meeting; in 2008, none.
At the end of 2008, in a letter to the Security Council president on the committee’s activities during the year, its chairman – Italian Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant’ Agata – reported that the committee had been “ready to meet” as often as needed. But, he said, “Since 1 January 2008, no information relevant to the implementation of its mandate has been brought to the attention of the Committee.”
Now, some 30 months after the committee was established by resolution 1718, the council has agreed that it should – in the words of the Russian ambassador – be “activated.”
By April 24, committee members are to identify entities to be targeted for asset freeze and goods whose transfer to and from North Korea will be banned. By month’s end the committee – which this year is chaired by Turkey, with Libya and Costa Rica as co-chairs – must agree upon the designations.
The U.S. and Japanese ambassadors to the U.N., Susan Rice and Yukio Takasu, said Monday they would submit lists of North Korean firms they propose should be placed on a U.N. blacklist.
Both the U.S. and Japan already enforce unilateral sanctions against North Korea. Washington last year lifted two elements of its sanctions framework – restrictions under the Trading with the Enemy Act and the designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism – but most U.S. sanctions remain in place, including prohibitions against trade and the exporting of dual-use items.
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow