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  • Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari briefs the Security Council meeting on Non-proliferation/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari briefs the Security Council meeting on Non-proliferation/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Security Council Briefing on Non-Proliferation/Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari

Madam President,
Members of the Security Council,

There have been troubling developments related to the nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – DPRK – in recent months.

The first relates to the resumed missile testing by the DPRK. 

The launch of two missiles on 28 November marked the thirteenth time the DPRK has launched ballistic missiles or other projectiles this year. 

More recently, on 7 December, the DPRK announced what it referred to as an important test at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground situated on the west coast, that would help to change the “strategic position of the DPRK once again in the near future”.  Some experts believe that the word “strategic” refers to the DPRK’s nuclear weapons capability.  Analysts have reported signs of a rocket engine test at the site having been conducted within the past few days.

The DPRK through its state media has announced the test of various new missile systems this year, including systems it has referred to as multiple-launch rocket systems as well as a new land-based short-range ballistic missile and a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

As is well known, Security Council resolutions, most recently resolution 2397 of 22 December 2017, prohibit the DPRK from, inter alia, conducting any further launches that use ballistic missile technology.  Furthermore, according to the information available to the United Nations, the DPRK did not issue any airspace or maritime safety notifications. 

The second development relates to the DPRK’s ongoing suspension of diplomatic engagements.  The DPRK has yet to resume working-level talks with the United States; inter-Korean contacts have stalled; and the DPRK is forgoing some international engagements.

The third development relates to the DPRK’s warning of a “new path”. 

The DPRK has set a new policy that it will not discuss denuclearization unless the United States’ so-called “hostile policy” is removed; it has set a year-end deadline for the United States to come up with a “bold” proposal agreeable to Pyongyang; and has warned that it would otherwise take a “new path”.

While it is unclear what the “new path” may entail, the DPRK Foreign Ministry stated on 30 November that we may see what a “real ballistic missile is in the not distant future”.  In terms of timing, the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea will hold a plenary meeting in “the latter half” of December, to “discuss and decide on crucial issues in line with the needs of the development of the Korean revolution and the changed situation at home and abroad”. Previous sessions of the Central Committee have seen the ruling party prepare for major announcements.

The Secretary-General is very concerned by the latest developments on the Korean Peninsula.  The DPRK’s reference to launching ballistic missiles and its threat of potentially taking a so-called “new path” in the coming weeks is deeply troubling.  The Secretary-General is reiterating his call on the DPRK leadership to comply fully with its international obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions, resume working-level talks with the United States, and work for peace and stability.

On 15 December 2017, the Secretary-General described the situation on the Korean Peninsula as the most tense and dangerous peace and security issue in the world.  Significant progress was made in 2018 towards building trust, reducing the risk of war and opening channels of communication.  The summits involving the leaders of the DPRK and the Republic of Korea and United States respectively gave rise to hope that it is possible to build an atmosphere conducive to advancing sustainable peace and complete and verifiable denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

Today, however, and as mentioned, talks between the DPRK and the United States, as well as between the two Koreas, have stalled.

The Secretary-General calls on the parties to continue what they have started.  It will require perseverance, political courage and painstaking diplomacy.  He urges the DPRK and the United States to resume talks.  Diplomacy can continue to reduce tensions that could otherwise set events on an unpredictable trajectory. 

The Secretary-General calls for the international community to support the parties in their endeavours and to ensure the full implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.  The unity of the Security Council remains essential for achieving the goal of complete and verifiable denuclearization and creates the space for diplomatic initiatives to that end.

I would like to close, Madam President, by noting that a breakdown in diplomacy will not help the human rights or humanitarian situation in the DPRK. 

Meeting the population’s basic needs of food, access to essential health services as well as to clean water and adequate sanitation, are a humanitarian imperative but also a basic human right. 

While the primary responsibility to meet these needs lies with the DPRK Government, as is the case for any government toward its people, the United Nations Secretariat has consistently stressed the humanitarian imperative to provide humanitarian assistance when the basic needs of the population are not being met.

International humanitarian operations in the DPRK remain critical for over 10 million people – or around 40 per cent of the population. The United Nations Secretariat recalls that the measures imposed by the Security Council are not intended to negatively affect or restrict food aid and humanitarian assistance that is not prohibited by relevant Security Council resolutions.  The United Nations Secretariat is encouraged by the Security Council 1718 Sanctions Committee’s adoption of Implementation Assistance Notice Number 7 in August 2018, which provides guidelines for obtaining exemptions necessary to facilitate humanitarian assistance in the DPRK, as well as the improvements in rates and timeliness of exemption approvals.

Addressing the humanitarian needs in the DPRK requires an integrated response – for example, addressing water, sanitation and hygiene to also improve health and nutrition - to be effective and to save lives and prevent more suffering.  I urge all Member States to fund life-saving humanitarian operations in the DPRK.  Some USD 120 million are required to address the critical humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable 3.8 million people in 2019.  A gap of USD 87 million remains.

Thank you, Madam President.