Explanation of Vote at the Adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2321 on Sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Ambassador Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 30, 2016

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General for being here on such an important occasion. We are here because of dangerous choices made by a Member State of the United Nations, the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK. The choice to be the only country in the 21st century to conduct a nuclear test. The choice to defy this Council’s clear and consistent requirements by testing nuclear devices twice this year alone. The choice to continue producing fissile material for its nuclear program. The choice to accelerate prohibited ballistic missile launches to an unprecedented rate – more than two dozen since January 2016, including from new delivery systems like submarines. The choice to keep threatening neighbors and countries continents away with nuclear annihilation.

These choices reflect a calculated strategy. The DPRK is determined to refine its nuclear and ballistic missile technology to pose an even more potent threat to UN Member States, and – more broadly – to international peace and security.

Consider what DPRK leader Kim Jong-Un said after testing an engine for a long-range missile in April, that North Korea “can tip new-type intercontinental ballistic rockets with more powerful nuclear warheads and keep any cesspool of evils in the earth, including the U.S. mainland, within our striking range.”

The United States recognizes China for working closely with us in negotiating this extremely rigorous and important resolution. We are also grateful for the critically important contributions made by Japan and the Republic of Korea, who face a grave threat that one Korean official likened to “living with the Cuban missile crisis every day.”

Lately, this Council has been divided on many issues. But the unanimous adoption of new sanctions shows that as long as the DPRK pursues this dangerous and destabilizing path, this Council will impose ever harsher consequences on those responsible. In March, this Council passed what were then the toughest sanctions to date on the DPRK. But the DPRK remained as determined as ever to continue advancing its nuclear technology. The DPRK found ways to continue diverting revenue from exports to fund its research, it tried to cover up its business dealings abroad, and it looked for openings to smuggle illicit materials by land, sea, and air. Today’s resolution systematically goes after each of these illicit schemes.

Let me highlight three ways that this resolution breaks new and important ground. First, the resolution imposes major new restrictions on the sources of hard currency – in particular coal exports – that the DPRK is using to pay for its nuclear weapons and its ballistic missiles. Of course, Resolution 2270 banned coal exports not exclusively used for what this Council called “livelihood purposes.” But the DPRK’s coal revenues have remained high – about one third of the DPRK’s entire export revenue. And, contrary to the letter and spirit of Resolution 2270, this coal export revenue has not been used to help the people of North Korea; it has been used to further build up the regime’s illegal weapons programs. So this resolution imposes a new binding cap on how much coal the DPRK can ship out of the country, cutting what the DPRK earns by approximately $700 million per year from its 2015 total, or more than 60 percent of its coal export revenue. Much of this coal trade involves DPRK companies with links to the regime and its prohibited nuclear and ballistic missiles programs.

In addition, this resolution imposes a new ban on the export of copper, nickel, silver, and zinc, which will eliminate another $100 million or more in annual hard currency revenue for the regime. So, in total, this resolution will slash by at least $800 million per year the hard currency that the DPRK has to fund its prohibited weapons programs, which constitutes a full 25 percent of the DPRK’s entire export revenues.

But we knew going into this negotiation that the DPRK has found itself masterful at using non-traditional means to stash currency. And the resolution goes after some of the less obvious ways that the DPRK makes money. We have banned the export of monuments. Now, you might ask why on earth would we ban the export of monuments. Well it turns out that such exports – like a statue of Laurent Kabila standing in Kinshasa today, two statues that Robert Mugabe paid $5 million to be stood up in Zimbabwe upon his passing, or countless others found around the world – generate tens of millions of dollars for the regime. And we have called out countries that host DPRK laborers by urging these countries to take steps to ensure that wages are not supporting the DPRK regime’s prohibited programs.

Second, the resolution makes it much harder for the DPRK to use diplomats to advance its prohibited programs. In the past, the DPRK has tried to enable nuclear and ballistic missile officials to travel by giving them phony diplomatic titles. Meanwhile DPRK officials posted in embassies abroad have spent their time running businesses and brokering arms sales to fund the regime’s military. But an arms dealer with a diplomatic passport is still an arms dealer. So from now on, states must restrict the travel of those affiliated with the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs or other prohibited activities, diplomatic passports or not.

Third, the resolution imposes unprecedented measures to restrict the flow of illicit materials into the DPRK. On land, the resolution emphasizes that cargo heading into and out of the DPRK by road or rail must be inspected. At sea, the DPRK will no longer be allowed to mask its ships and evade scrutiny by flying the flags of other countries or controlling other vessels with their crews. And by air, Member States should inspect the baggage of anyone flying into and out of the DPRK.

In the next 15 days, this Council’s DPRK Sanctions Committee will make another important determination – publishing for the first time a list of “conventional arms dual use” items that will no longer be allowed to enter the DPRK. These are commercially available components that have civilian uses, like sophisticated electronic sensors, but that the DPRK can use to build advanced military equipment like radar systems, night vision, and stealth technology.

I began by talking about the fact that DPRK made the choice to pursue nuclear weapons. But I want to, before closing, discuss another choice the DPRK regime has made – the choice to systematically violate the human rights of its people. As the UN Commission of Inquiry found in its 2014 report, the DPRK arbitrarily detains between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners in its gulags, where they are subjected to deliberate starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, and rape, among other abuses. The DPRK seeks nothing less than, as it was put into the report, “total control of organized social life,” through tactics ranging from summary executions, to forced indoctrination, to the methodical repression of freedom of expression. Even though we have heard it before – and many of us have repeated it – it is worth underscoring the Commission’s finding that “the gravity, scale, and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” The situation in the DPRK reaffirms what we have said elsewhere – that when governments flagrantly violate the human rights of their own people, they almost always show similar disdain for the international norms that help ensure our shared security.

So this resolution enshrines for the first time that the DPRK must respect and ensure the “welfare and inherent dignity” of people in its territory. That includes the North Korean people, of course, but also those of other nationalities in its territory, including unjustly detained Americans and those abducted from countries like Japan and the Republic of Korea, whose families in some cases have endured decades of suffering from not knowing the fate of their loved ones. The defense of human dignity is a basic demand, and it is long overdue coming from this Council. The same clique of leaders responsible for the DPRK’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is the one responsible for systematically abusing their people at home. This resolution also recalls for the first time that, in keeping with Article 5 of the UN Charter, if DPRK continues on its current path, systematically and flagrantly violating its Charter obligations, it could see some or all of its rights and privileges here at the UN suspended.

The United States is realistic about what this resolution will achieve. No resolution in New York will likely, tomorrow, persuade Pyongyang to cease its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons.

But this resolution imposes unprecedented costs on the DPRK regime for defying this Council’s demands. The door remains open for the DPRK to choose a different path. To choose the path of negotiations toward complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization. When the DPRK makes this choice, the United States, and I know this Council, will be ready to engage. And with sustained international pressure, it is possible to change the DPRK’s calculus. To do that, the members of this Council and all Member States of this United Nations must fully implement the sanctions that we have adopted today. The strength of this resolution – and our ability to change the DPRK’s threatening, belligerent behavior – depends on Member States exercising maximum vigilance to enforce each and every one of the provisions in today’s resolution. We call on all Member States to remain united in imposing consequences on the DPRK for its many dangerous choices. Thank you.

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