CRS report on UNSC Resolution 1874

July 1, 2009
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Summary: The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Res. 1874 on June 12, 2009, in response to North Korea’s second nuclear test. The resolution puts in place a series of sanctionson North Korea’s arms sales, luxury goods, and financial transactions related to its weapons programs, and calls upon states to inspect North Korean vessels suspected of carrying such shipments. The resolution does allow for shipments of food and nonmilitary goods. As was the case with an earlier U.N. resolution, 1718, that was passed in October 2006 after North Korea’s first nuclear test, Res. 1874 seeks to curb financial benefits that go to North Korea’s regime and its weapons program. This report summarizes and analyzes Res. 1874.

On the surface, financial sanctions aimed solely at the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, the official name of North Korea) and its prohibited activities are not likely to have a large monetary effect. Governments will have to interpret the financial sanctions ban of the resolution liberally in order to apply sanctions to the bank accounts of North Korean trading corporations. A key to its success will be the extent to which China, North Korea’s most important economic partner, implements the resolution. In summary, the economic effect of Resolution 1874 is not likely to be great unless China cooperates extensively and goes beyond the requirements of the resolution and/or the specific financial sanctions cause a ripple effect that causes financial institutions to avoid being “tainted” by handling any DPRK transaction. A ban on luxury goods will only be effective if China begins to deny North Korea lucrative trade credits.

Provisions for inspection of banned cargo on aircraft and sea vessels rely on the acquiescence of the shipping state. In the case of North Korean vessels, it is highly unlikely that they would submit to searches. Resolution 1874 is vague about how its air cargo provisions are to be implemented, in contrast to the specific procedures set forth regarding inspecting sea-borne cargo. While procedures are specified for sea interdictions, the authority given is ambiguous and optional. Further, DPRK trade in small arms and ammunition is relatively insignificant, and therefore the ban on those exports is unlikely to have a great impact.


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