Friday, February 25, 2011

France Opinion: North Korea and the nuclear bomb: what's up at the UN?

North Korea and the nuclear bomb: what's up at the UN?


By conducting an enrichment program, North Korea is blatantly violating its international obligations, in particular those arising under UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874" - Statement by the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs - 22 November 2010

1. Latest developments in New York Retour à la table des matières

- The panel of independent experts established pursuant to resolution 1874 to assist the Sanctions Committee (1718 Committee) submitted on 28 January 2011 to the Committee, at its request, a report on the recent nuclear developments in North Korea. This report followed a meeting of the Committee with Professor Hecker, a U.S. scientist who was invited by North Korea in November 2010 to visit a uranium centrifuge facility and a light water reactor in Yeongbyon.

The expert panel concluded that the enrichment facility and the light water reactor constituted a serious violation of resolutions 1718 and 1874. It made recommendations to the Committee, including new designations of individuals, entities and assets and technologies for a nuclear enrichment program.

The report, which was not released, was discussed in closed consultations of the Security Council on 23 February 2011 during the quarterly review of the report of the president of the 1718 Committee. France emphasized the quality of the report of the panel of experts and endorsed its recommendations.

- On 18 December 2010, as North Korea had expressed its intention to respond by force to a South Korean routine military exercise, Russia requested an emergency consultations meeting of the Security Council. The Council met on 19 December and was briefed by the Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Lynn Pascoe. It then met in private session to hear the delegates from North and South Korea.

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Members of the Security Council unanimously adopt resolution 1874
12 June 2009 - UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

2. Background Retour à la table des matières

a/ The North Korean nuclear program

- North Korea signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1985, but a crisis erupted in 1993 when IAEA inspections uncovered suspicious activities, and the country announced it would withdraw from the NPT. The Security Council then adopted resolution 825, which condemned that intention and called on North Korea to respect its international commitments. Negotiations finally resulted in a freeze of the nuclear programme in exchange for shipments that would allow North Korea to set up a civilian nuclear program, and it did not withdraw from the NPT.

- In 1998, the country tested a long-range missile (1,500 km – Taepodong 1), and in January 2003, it turned away IAEA inspectors and announced its withdrawal from the nonproliferation treaty.

- A discussion process, called the Six-party talks, got under way with the Beijing meeting of 23 and 24 April 2003, between the United States, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and North Korea.

A joint statement was adopted by the six parties on 19 September 2005, in which North Korea committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning at an early date to the nonproliferation treaty and to IAEA safeguards, in exchange for energy assistance.

- Despite these efforts within the six-party talks, North Korea pressed ahead with its nuclear programme: In July 2006, North Korea launched two missiles with a 6,000 kilometer-range toward Japan (Taepodong 2). In October 2006, it announced that it had carried out an underground nuclear test. Then, in April 2009, it launched balistic missiles, followed in May by a second nuclear test, and in July by another balistic missile launch.

- The Security Council adopted three resolutions since 2006 on the North Korean nuclear program, including two that institute and reinforce a sanctions regime:

UN Security Council resolution 1695, adopted after the July 2006 missile launch, condemned the firing of missiles and demanded that North Korea stop its balistic activities.

Resolution 1718, adopted after the October 2006 nuclear test, instituted a sanctions regime. These measures are aimed first and foremost at fighting proliferation activities by banning in particular the delivery of sensitive goods, by strengthening financial oversight, by encouraging the inspection of suspicious cargo.

A Sanctions Committee was set up by this resolution to implement these decisions, and grant certain dispensations as appropriate in specific cases (medical or humanitarian reasons). The committee is composed of the 15 members of the Security Council. This sanctions committee was not activated in the first years of its formal existence while the six-party talks were ongoing and seemed to make progress. However, the launch by North Korea on 5 April 2009 of a ballistic missile (described by North Korea as a "communications satellite") resulted in a presidential statement adopted on 13 April 2009 which established a clear timetable for the activation of the Committee.

Resolution 1874, unanimously adopted after the second nuclear test of May 2009,reinforces the sanctions regime.

The resolution, inspired in part by French proposals, includes a large ban on weapons, the inspection of suspicious cargo ships and aircraft to or from North Korea, financial restrictions and the strengthening of the UN Sanctions Committee to oversee the implementation of these measures.

The Committee is now assisted by a panel of experts that makes recommendations to the Council. The panel is made up of seven experts. The panel’s mandate was renewed until 12 June 2011 by resolution 1928 of 7 June 2010.

The Committee had one month to identify additional individuals and entities who would be subject to individual sanctions due to their involvement in sensitive activities.

The members of the Security Council, through the Sanctions Committee, agreed on 16 July to sanction five entities and five people involved in the nuclear and missile programs in North Korea. Their financial assets are frozen in the 192 United Nations member countries. The five people involved are subject to a travel ban preventing them from leaving North Korea. The Committee also expanded the list of sensitive materials under embargo, which can no longer be imported by North Korea.

The Security Council meets every three months in private consultations to hear the report of the president of the 1718 Committee (since 1 January 2011, the Permanent Representative of Portugal).

- The Secretary-General of the United Nations sent his Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Mr Lynn Pascoe, in Pyongyang from 8 to 10 February 2010 to strengthen ties between North Korea and the United Nations. Mr Pascoe was the highest ranking UN official to visit North Korea since 2004.

- A clandestine site of uranium enrichment at Yongbyon was unveiled on 20 November 2010. The spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs made the following statement on 22 November 2010:

"France is concerned by the information gathered by Professor Siegfried S. Hecker (a professor at Stanford and former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory) who says that he has visited a uranium enrichment centrifuge facility in North Korea.

By conducting an enrichment program, North Korea is blatantly violating its international obligations, in particular those arising under UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874 which call for the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear weapons and programs.

France reaffirms that the IAEA must be able to carry out its inspection tasks. North Korea must therefore immediately allow the Agency’s inspectors to return to its territory and provide them with access to all of its nuclear facilities".

On 28 January 2011, the expert panel (created by Resolution 1874 to assist the Sanctions Committee) issued a report after hearing Professor Hecker. This report has not been made public.

- Within the relevant bodies of the UN, France is actively engaged in the fight against nuclear and ballistic proliferation, notably in the case of North Korea. France supports the six-party talks on resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. As a member of the Security Council, it actively participated in drafting resolutions 1695, 1718, and 1874. Its objective, and that of the EU, remains the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear programs in order to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

On 24 September 2009, at a meeting of the Security Council at the level of Heads of State and Government devoted to disarmament and non-proliferation, French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed the issue of Korea North during his speech. After referring to Iran, he said: "Second, North Korea. It gets even better: they have violated all Security Council resolutions since 1993, and they disregard everything that the international community says, everything. What’s more, they are continuing their ballistic tests. How can we accept this? What conclusions can we draw from it? I say that at some point, all of us – regardless of our positions in other respects – will have to work together to adopt sanctions and to ensure that the UN Security Council’s decisions are effective.”

b/ The Cheonan case

- A South Korean warship was sunk on 26 March 2010, killing 46 sailors. In May the South Korean government, following an international investigation, accused North Korea of having torpedoed the ship and expressed its intention to seize the Security Council. The permanent representative of the Republic of Korea handed to that effect a letter to the president of the Security Council on 4 June. A private meeting with members of the commission who investigated the sinking was held on 14 June.

- A private informal interactive meeting of the Security Council was held on 14 June 2010, in the presence of the representative of South Korea and members of the commission who investigated the sinking, on 26 March 2010, of the South Korean battleship "Cheonan". The commission, composed of dozens of experts from South Korea, as well as American, Swedish, British experts, concluded that a North Korean torpedo was the cause of the sinking of the ship. It presented the detailed results of its investigation and responded to questions from Council members. In a second meeting, the Security Council listened to the arguments presented by the representative of North Korea.

Following the meeting, the Permanent Representative of France Mr. G�rard Araud, made a statement to the press: "the evidence which has been provided is, for the French authorities, fully convincing. For France, this attack has been committed by North Korea against a South Korean ship. We think that the Security Council should react very strongly".

- On 9 July 2010, the Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement (S/PRST/2010/13) in which it "condemns the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan". "In view of the findings of the Joint Civilian-Military Investigation Group led by the ROK with the participation of five nations, which concluded that the DPRK was responsible for sinking the Cheonan, the Security Council expresses its deep concern." It "calls for full adherence to the Korean Armistice Agreement and encourages the settlement of outstanding issues on the Korean peninsula by peaceful means to resume direct dialogue and negotiation through appropriate channels as early as possible, with a view to avoiding conflicts and averting escalation."

c/ Artillery shells fired on the island of Yeonpyeong

On 23 November 2010, artillery shells were fired by North Korean forces on the island of Yeonpyeong in which two soldiers of the armed forces of South Korea and two civilians were killed.

Following these incidents, the French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs made the following statement:

"I utterly condemn the firing of artillery shells by North Korea which targeted Yeonpyeong Island and which, according to the latest reports, has killed two South Korean soldiers and injured several South Korean civilians.

France urges North Korea to discontinue provocations and to refrain from any further action that may increase tension in the region.

We commend the spirit of responsibility demonstrated by the South Korean authorities."

The United Nations Secretary-General condemned the attack, calling it "was one of the gravest incidents since the end of the Korean War". Differences between member states did not allow the Security Council to reach an agreement on a condemnation of North Korea, despite support from many delegations, including France.

(February 2011)

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