On September 9, 2016 the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) carried out its 5th nuclear test.
In the past the UN Security Council has imposed a series of sanctions as the response to each nuclear test carried out by the DPRK.
This situation has continued for over 10 years.
During a press stakeout, the Japanese Ambassador to the UN, who is currently a member of the Security Council, was asked by a journalist if he could say what the DPRK demands are. The Japanese Ambassador responded that the DPRK wants “to develop nuclear weapons in order to be a full nuclear weapons state.” (1)
Such a response, especially considering the long standing role Japan has played in the conflict with the DPRK, demonstrates a serious lack of accountability by the Security Council in its treatment of the DPRK.
Japan not only was on the Security Council but also was the President of the UN Security Council on October 14, 2006 when the DPRK made a statement at the Security Council explaining why it had carried out its first nuclear test on October 9, 2006. In the Security Council meeting of October 14, 2006, which is documented in the UN transcript of that meeting the DPRK Ambassador to the UN, Pak Gil Yon explained(2):
“It is gangster-like for the UN Security Council to have adopted today a coercive resolution, while neglecting the nuclear threat, moves for sanctions and pressure of the United States against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This clearly testifies that the Security Council has completely lost its impartiality and persists in applying double standards in its work.”
The Ambassador continued: “The delegation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea expresses its disappointment over the fact that the Security Council finds itself incapable of saying even a word of concern to the United States, which threatens the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with nuclear pre-emptive attack and conducting large-scale joint military exercises near the Korean peninsula.”
The DPRK Ambassador explained that the October 9, 2006 nuclear test “was entirely attributable to the United States nuclear threat, sanctions and pressure.”
The DPRK noted that it had “exerted every possible effort to settle the nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations, prompted by its sincere desire to realize the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” The DPRK Ambassador then described how the Bush Administration, “responded to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s patient and sincere effort and magnanimity with a policy of sanctions and blockade. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was compelled to substantially prove its possession of nukes to protect its sovereignty and the right to existence from the daily increasing danger of war from the United States.”
The statement ended by asserting that “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is ready for both dialogue and confrontation. If the United States persistently increases pressure upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, my country will continue to take physical countermeasures, considering such pressure to be a declaration of war.”
According to the language and spirit of the UN Charter, the process of deciding how to handle a dispute needs to be a process where the Security Council invites a party to a dispute such as the one involving the DPRK to participate in the Security Council discussion of the dispute.
This provision of the UN charter makes it possible for the members of the Security Council to listen to the different sides in a dispute before a decision is reached about how to resolve the dispute.
In the UN Security Council consideration of the dispute leading to the first nuclear explosion, the DPRK was only allowed to speak after the Security Council had already decided to support the US and punish the DPRK. The meeting transcript does not provide any record of any questions asked by Security Council members of the DPRK Ambassador so as to better understand his side of the dispute.
The lack of any response from Security Council members to the DPRK side of the dispute might seem understandable if one did not know about Chapter V Article 32 of the UN Charter.
This Article says that when the Security Council takes a dispute under consideration, member nations who are a party to the conflict but not a member of the Security Council, “shall be invited to participate without vote, in the discussion relating to the dispute….”(3)
Yet this requirement of the UN Charter has in general been systematically violated by the UN Security Council with the DPRK. This makes it possible for most Security Council member nations to appear to have no idea of the basis of the dispute between the US and the DPRK which the DPRK says is the reason it needs a nuclear weapon to guarantee its security.
The implication of this situation is that as long as the Security Council ignores its obligation under the UN charter to properly invite the DPRK to the Security Council to be a participant in its discussion of the dispute between the US and the DPRK, the dispute only becomes more intractable and more dangerous to peace and security, not only on the Korean Peninsula but to the world.
1) UN webcast, Friday, Sept 9, 2016 available at: http://webtv.un.org/media/media-stakeouts/watch/koro-bessho-japan-on-non-proliferation-and-the-democratic-peoples-republic-of-korea-dprk-security-council-media-stakeout-9-september-2016/5118990324001 (start: 4:00 to 5:08)
2) See pg 7-8 S/PV.5551, Saturday 14 October, 2006, available at:http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/PV.5551, See also S/PV.5490 15 July 2006 p.8-9, available at http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/Chap%20VII%20SPV%205490.pdf
3) Chapter V(32), p. 23.