In response to the sixth and largest North Korean nuclear test conducted on 3 September 2017, which DPRK claimed to be a hydrogen bomb, the Security Council adopted UNSCR 2375 on 11 September 2017, bolstering the increasingly comprehensive nature of the DPRK sanctions regime.
The unanimously adopted resolution broadened the existing sanctions by specifying new items, individuals, and entities subject to sanctions measures, expanding the port entry ban from designated vessels to all vessels transporting prohibited items, adding a prohibition on providing work authorizations to any DPRK nationals not currently in their destination country, and extending the prohibition of joint ventures to all DPRK entities or individuals regardless of their association with the government of DPRK or contribution to prohibited activities. UNSCR 2375 also imposed a ban on ship-to-ship transfers to and from DPRK-flagged vessels of any items originating, destined for, or transferring through DPRK territory, a ban on the export of textiles from DPRK, and a number of commodity import restrictions – a total ban on the import of condensates and natural gas liquids to DPRK and a cap on the imports of refined petroleum products and the imports of crude oil – targeting new sectors of DPRK’s economy. With a view to enhance sanctions’ implementation against the country, the Security Council strengthened the vessels’ inspection procedure, with refusal to submit to inspection constituting a reason for their designation, and made states’ sanctions implementation reporting mandatory.
The original US draft of the resolution also included the designation of DPRK leader Kim Jong-un, but his name, together with those of three other high level officials and entities, ban on remittances of DPRK workers abroad, and stricter oil sector restrictions, were removed following consultations with China and (for the first time also) Russia. While supportive of DPRK denuclearization and acting in unison in the Security Council, both advocated for a diplomatic solution, even as reports of illegal transfers of oil to DPRK by their nationals and/or companies were surfacing (with Russia assuming an increasingly prominent role in this respect). China had been arguing in favor of a parallel double-suspension proposal, which continued to be rejected by the US, while Russia stressed the limits of the present approach, stating that it was “impossible to resolve the problem of the Korean peninsula only by sanctions and pressure.”
The US, under the new administration, had been the primary proponent of tougher sanctions on DPRK, with President Trump during his 19 September speech at the UN General Assembly threatening to “totally destroy North Korea” if “forced to defend itself or its allies” and CIA director Pompeo warning in October that DPRK could be just months away from being able to strike continental US. Proceeding to further broaden its unilateral sanctions against North Korea on a monthly basis during the episode, the US also re-designated the country as a state sponsor of terrorism in November (originally listed in 1988, DPRK was de-listed in 2008 in the context of the Six-Party Talks).
DPRK – which continued to refuse to return to the Six-Party Talks, preferring bilateral US talks instead – launched an intermediate ballistic missile over Japan on 15 September (condemned in SC/12994) and an intercontinental ballistic missile, potentially capable of reaching the mainland US, on 29 November 2017. This led to the conduct of the largest joint US/South Korean air drill, a new round of unilateral sanctions by South Korea, Japanese decision to purchase an anti-missile system, greater regional cooperation in response to the threat posed by DPRK, and the beginning of negotiations on a new round of UN sanctions. Despite limited signs of improvement in UN-DPRK relations in early December (with DPRK approving, for the first time since 2011 and 2004, respectively, the visits by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and a UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea), UN SG Guterres 15 December 2017 called the situation on the Korean Peninsula “the most tense and dangerous peace and security issue in the world today” and expressed his deep concern about “the risk of military confrontation” with North Korea.
Coerce DPRK to cease nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, end WMD programs, retract Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) withdrawal, and return to the stalled Six-Party Talks to engage in negotiations, including about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Constrain DPRK's nuclear proliferation and access to nuclear, chemical, biological, and conventional weapons and their delivery systems related technology.
Signal support for non-proliferation norms, specifically the NPT.
Sanctions Committee and Panel of Experts in place. Designation criteria were specified and targets designated (maximum number of designees during the episode – 63 individual designees, 53 entities). Additional vessels designated. Enforcement authorities specified.
DPRK continued to engage in proscribed activity (including ballistic missile launches and, according to the Panel of Experts, a multi-million-dollar business in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum, operation of DPRK financial institutions abroad, and sanctions evasion by DPRK diplomats) and refused to denuclearize or return to the NPT or Six-Party Talks.
UN sanctions presented the primary means through which the international community channeled its reactions to DPRK's continued violations. Other unilateral sanctions, hostile rhetoric (especially by the US), and threat of military use of force also contributed to DPRK's continued engagement in proscribed activities.
Sanctions episode too short to observe discernable effects on DPRK; DPRK continued to engage in proscribed activities and sanctions implementation remained limited, with DPRK engaging in various and, according to the Panel of Experts, “increasingly sophisticated evasion practices.”
UN sanctions presented the primary instruments of constraint. Other sanctions, threats, and threat of military use of force also played an important role in constraining DPRK’s nuclear program.
Non-proliferation norm was clearly articulated in Security Council's official statements that strongly condemned DPRK's nuclear and missile activities; DPRK was largely stigmatized as an international pariah and perceived as a threat to international peace and security.
Sanctions remained the primary means for signaling the non-proliferation norm, but US rhetoric and threat of use of force also contributed to the signal. Reported Russian and Chinese sanctions evasion somewhat weakened the signal.
Increase in corruption and criminality, strengthening of authoritarian rule, increase in human rights violations, increase in international regulatory capacity in different issue domains, increase in international enforcement capacity in different issue domains, resource diversion, significant burden on implementing states, humanitarian consequences, other (impact on humanitarian aid, international organizations, and foreign diplomatic missions in DPRK).