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Case Studies in Sanctions and Terrorism: North Korea

Case Studies in Sanctions and Terrorism

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Case 50-1
US and UN v. North Korea
(1950–: Korean War)

Case 93-1
US and UN v. North Korea
(1993– : nuclear proliferation)

| Chronology of Key Events | Goals of Sender Country | Response to Target Country |
Attitude of Other Countries | Legal Notes | Economic Impact | Assessment |
Author's Summary | Bibliography |

Goals of Sender Country

25 June 1950, excerpts from UN resolution
The Security Council, “Noting with grave concern the armed attack upon the Republic of Korea by forces from North Korea, “Determines that this action constitutes a breach of the peace,

  “1. Calls for the immediate cessation of hostilities; and calls upon the authorities of
North Korea to withdraw forthwith their armed forces to the thirty-eighth parallel.
  “2. Requests the United Nations Commission on Korea (a) to communicate its fully
considered recommendations on the situation with the least possible delay; (b) to observe the withdrawal of the North Korean forces to the thirty-eighth parallel; (c) to keep the Security Council informed on the execution of the resolution.
  “3. Calls upon all members to render every assistance to the United Nations in the
execution of this resolution and to refrain from giving assistance to the North Korean authorities.” (New York Times, 26 July 1950, A4)

30 June 1950
White House “stated that in keeping with the Security Council's request for support to the Republic of Korea in repelling the North Korean invaders President Truman had (1) authorized the U.S. Air Force to ‘conduct missions on specific targets in Northern Korea . . . wherever militarily necessary’; (2) ordered a naval blockade of the entire Korean coast; and (3) authorized General MacArthur to use certain supporting ground units in Korea. . . . The President . . . had emphasized that the U.S.A. was ‘not at war’ but was engaged in ‘police action against a bunch of bandits.’” (Keesing's Contemporary Archives, 1950–52: 10807)

“With the Korean cease-fire the justification for a large-scale embargo became less compelling in the eyes of most but not all of the participants. American officials, for example, claimed that the cessation of hostilities did not mean the war was at an end or the need for vigilance less precipitous.” (Evans 1985, 9)

Authors' note
Unaffected even by progressive elimination of controls on trade with China since the early 1980s, the US embargo on trade with North Korea has continued unchanged until hostilities between North Korea and the United States flared up again in the context of nuclear proliferation.

United States

Lynn E. Davis, US Under Secretary for International Security Affairs, 3 March 1994:
“Our objectives in resolving the North Korea nuclear issue are a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and a strong non-proliferation regime.... That means North Korea must agree to:

  • Full D.P.R.K. membership in the NPT;
  • Full cooperation with the IAEA in implementing fullscope safeguards, including special inspections and other measures to clear up the discrepancies in the D.P.R.K.’s past declaration; and
  • Full implementation of the North-South Denuclearization Declaration, which bans uranium enrichment and reprocessing facilities and provides for bilateral inspection regime.”

President George W. Bush
“I have directed my national security team to undertake serious discussions with North Korea on a broad agenda to include: improved implementation of the Agreed Framework relating to North Korea’s nuclear activities; verifiable constraints on North Korea’s missile program and a ban on its missile exports; and a less threatening conventional military posture.. . . If North Korea responds affirmatively and takes appropriate action, we will expand our efforts to help the North Korean people, ease sanctions, and take other political steps.” (White House Press Release, Statement by the President, 6 June 2001)

“The United States has broader concerns regarding the DPRK as well. The DPRK counterfeits our currency; traffics in narcotics and engages in other illicit activities; threatens the ROK with its army and its neighbors with its missiles; and brutalizes and starves its people. The DPRK regime needs to change these policies, open up its political system, and afford freedom to its people. In the interim, we will continue to take all necessary measures to protect our national and economic security against the adverse effects of their bad conduct.” (The White House, National Security Strategy 2006)

"Dismantlement of Pyongyang's nuclear programs and weapons remained the official Bush Administration policy goal, but the February 2007 Six Party Agreement says little about dismantlement.  The two phases outlined…focus on freezing North Korean nuclear facilities…then "disablement of all existing nuclear facilities" and disclosure by North Korea of "all nuclear programs"…. The February 2007 agreement thus signals an apparent policy objective of containment of North Korea's nuclear programs and nuclear weapons development, limiting their size and scope." (CRS 2010b, 10-11)

President Barack Obama
"Mr. Obama's decision about North Korea stem from a fundamentally different assessment of the North's intentions than that of previous administrations. Nearly 16 years of on-an-off negotiations—punctuated by major crisis in 1994 and 2003—were based on an assumption that ultimately, the North was willing to give up its nuclear capability.  A review, carried out by the Obama administration during its first month in office, concluded that North Korea had no intention of trading away what it calls its "nuclear deterrent" in return for food, fuel and security guarantees…. [President Obama] will not agree to an incremental dismantlement of the North's nuclear facilities…it has to be truly irreversible."   (New York Times, 16 June 2009, A1)

"Since North Korea's long-range missile and nuclear tests in the spring of 2009, the Obama Administration has pursued a medium-to-longer term policy of "strategic patience" that has evolved to include four main elements: refusing to return to Six Party Talks without a North Korean assurance that it will take "irreversible steps" to denuclearize; gradually attempting to alter China's strategic assessment of North Korea; using Pyongyang's provocations as opportunities to tighten multilateral economic sanctions against North Korea entities; and not moving forward on diplomacy with North Korea without consent of South Korea. In the view of many observers, in the shorter term the approach amounts to a containment policy."  (CRS, 8 October 2010, 7)

United Nations

UN Security Council, 31 March 1994
“The Council calls upon the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to allow the IAEA inspectors to complete the inspection activities agreed between the IAEA and DPRK on February 1994, as a step in fulfilling its obligations under the IAEA-DPRK safeguard agreement and in honouring non-proliferation obligations of the Treaty.”

“The Council requests the DPRK and ROK to renew discussions whose purpose is implementation of the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” (Statement by the President of the Security Council, S/PRST/1994/13, 31 March 1994)

Joint US–Japan–Republic of Korea Trilateral Statement
“The three leaders agreed that North Korea’s program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons is a violation of the Agreed Framework, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, North Korea’s IAEA safeguards agreement and the South-North Joint Declaration on Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The three leaders called upon North Korea to dismantle this program in a prompt and verifiable manner and to come into full compliance with all its international commitments in conformity with North Korea’s recent commitment in the Japan–North Korea Pyongyang Declaration. In this context, the three leaders agreed to continue close coordination.” (White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 26 October 2002)

Security Council Resolution 1695, 15 July 2006
"Expressing grave concerns at the launch of ballistic missiles by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), given the potential of such systems to be used as a means to deliver nuclear, chemical or biological payloads, …
"Affirming that such launches jeopardize peace, stability and security in the region and beyond, particularly in light of the DPRK's claim that is had developed nuclear weapons,..
"Demands that the DPRK suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile programme, and in this context re-establish it pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching…."

Security Council Resolution 1718, 14 October 2006
"Demands that the DPRK not conduct any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile.
"Demands that the DPRK immediately retract its announcement of withdrawal from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons;
"Demands further that the DPRK return to the Treat on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards,…."

Security Council Resolution 1874, 12 June 2009
"Decides that the DPRK shall suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile programme and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launches;.
"Demands that the DPRK immediately comply fully with its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution1718 (2006; …."

Response of Target Country

3 July 1950
North Korean foreign minister sends note to UN accusing US government of “barefaced aggression” aimed at “imperialist domination” in Far East. Note reiterates North Korean contention that forces of South Korean President Syngman Rhee had been first to violate 38th parallel and that North Korean forces had crossed it only in “throwing back the enemy.” (Keesing's Contemporary Archives, 1950–52: 10810)

DPRK Foreign Ministry Statement
"If [Washington] thinks it can get something by frightening us with strength, regarding pressure as an almighty solution, it is a mistake." (Washington Post, 13 February 1994, A29)

North Korean negotiator during bilateral talks at Panmunjom
When South Korean negotiator mentions possibility of economic sanctions, North Korean counterpart replies that "It does not matter what sanctions are applied against us. We are ready to respond with an eye for an eye and war for a war. Seoul is not far away from here. If a war breaks out, Seoul will turn into a sea of fire." (Financial Times, 21 March 1994, 1, 2; 22 March 1994, 6)

DPRK statement
Warns Japan publicly that should Japan “join force in any sanctions against us, we would regard it as a declaration of war and Japan would be unable to avoid a deserving punishment for it.” (New York Times, 10 June 1994, A11)

North Korean press release
“The Bush administration listed the D.P.R.K. as part of the “axis of evil” and a target of U.S. preemptive nuclear strikes. This was a clear declaration of war against the D.P.R.K. as it totally nullified the D.P.R.K. U.S. joint statement and agreed framework. …Its [United States’] reckless political, economic and military pressure is most seriously threatening the D.P.R.K.’s right to existence, creating a grave situation of the Korean Peninsula. …Nevertheless, the D.P.R.K., with great magnanimity, clarified that is was ready to seek a negotiated settlement of this issue on the following three questions: Firstly, if the U.S. recognizes the D.P.R.K.’s sovereignty; Secondly, if is assures the D.P.R.K. of non-aggression; and Thirdly, if the U.S. does not hinder the economic development of the D.P.R.K.” (New York Times, 26 October 2002, A8)

Pak Gil Yon, North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations:
“North Korea has ‘no intention to produce nuclear weapons’ but that any sanctions levied by the Security Council would be considered a declaration of war.” (Washington Post, 11 January 2003, A16)

North Korean Foreign Ministry:
"The study of the policy pursued by the Obama administration for the past 100 days since its emergence made it clear that the U.S. hostile policy toward the D.P.R.K remains unchanged".  (New York Times, 29 May 2009)

"Since Obama took office, North Korea has emphasized two main demands: that it be recognized as a nuclear weapons state and that a peace treaty with the United States is a prerequisite to denuclearization."  (CRS 2010e, 5)

Attitude of Other Countries

Soviet bloc nations
These countries deny validity of UN General Assembly arms embargo resolution, claiming motions of that sort can originate only in Security Council. ( New York Times , 19 May 1951, A3)


Shen Guofang, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman:
"China in principle does not subscribe to the involvement of the (UN) Security Council in the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula or the resort to sanctions to solve it." "We do not agree on sanctions, for sanctions will only serve to push the parties concerned into confrontation." (Washington Post, 10 January 1994, A1; 17 June 1994, A20)

Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng:
"China favors a proper settlement of the (nuclear) issue through dialogues and consultations, instead of imposing pressure and sanctions… We hold that denuclearization of the peninsula will be realized at an early date, for this will be not only conducive to peace and stability in the peninsula, but also in line with the common interests of both (North and South Korea) and beneficial to peace and stability in the region and in the world as a whole." (Washington Post, 27 December 1993, A13)

Anonymous Chinese diplomat
“We are not going to read the riot act to Kim Jong Il or engage in economic sanctions, because if his regime collapses all of Northeast Asia will face instability.” (Washington Post, 25 February 2003, A19)

Russia and China Joint statement
“The sides consider it important to preserve the non-nuclear status of the Korean peninsula and the regime of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction…In this context…(the two sides) stress the extreme importance of normalizing relations between the United States and the D.P.R.K. on the basis of continued observation of earlier reached agreements, including the framework agreement of 1994.” (New York Times, 3 December 2002, A12; Financial Times, 3 December 2002, 6)

Zhang Yesui, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations:
"Chinese Foreign Ministry had issued a firm statement of opposition against the nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in disregard for the international community's common objective. It had strongly urged that country to honour the quest to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and return to the six-party talks. …The Democratic People's Republic of Korea had violated Security Council resolutions, impaired the effectiveness of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and affected international peace and stability. …In that context, China had voted in favour of the resolution [UNSC 1874]…It should be stressed, however, that the sovereignty, territorial integrity and legitimate security concerns and development interests of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea should be respected. After its return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, that country would enjoy the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy as a State party. The Council's actions, meanwhile, should not adversely impact the country's development, or humanitarian assistance to it. As indicated in the text, if the country complied with the relevant provisions, the Council would review the appropriateness of suspending or lifting the measures. The issue of inspections was complex and sensitive, and countries must act prudently and under the precondition of reasonable grounds and sufficient evidence, and refrain from any words or deeds that might exacerbate conflict. Under no circumstances should there be use of force or threat of use of force.  .Despite the second nuclear test, China still believed that Security Council actions "are not all about sanctions", but that political and diplomatic means were still the way to bring about peace on the Korean peninsula. Under the current circumstances, the parties should keep calm and exercise restraint."  (UN Security Council Statement, SC/9679, 12 June 2009)

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
“Attempts to isolate North Korea can only lead to a new escalation in tension.” (Washington Post, 31 December 2002, A14)

Russian Ambassador to South Korea
“Sanctions do not work either against North Korea, or against Iran, or against any other country”. (, 7 March 2006)

Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of Russian to United Nations: "Having sanctions and things like that is not our choice, but a certain political message must be sent, and some measures must be taken, because we are facing a very real situation of proliferation risk." (New York Times, 11 June 2009, A6)

South Korean President Kim Young Sam
“We must try to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. We'd like to make our best efforts to solve the problems through dialogue… (But) if there is no change, we must resort to sanctions.” (Washington Post, 24 October 1993, C1)

South Korean President Kim Dae Jung
“Sanctions would likely lead to a repeat of the nuclear crisis in the early 1990’s.” (New York Times, 31 October 2002, A13)

President Kim Dae-Jung
“No policy of containment and isolation against communist countries has succeeded in history, even during the Cold War era.” (Financial Times, 31 December 2002, 1)

President Lee Myung-bak: "The new, conservative South Korean government took a tougher line on North Korea..., warning that it would speak out against human rights abuses in the Communist North and that it would not expand economic ties unless the North abandoned its nuclear weapons programs." (New York Times, 27 March 2007, A6)

Government assembles a 10-point draft sanctions plan aimed at North Korea to meet US moves to punish Pyongyang in the UN for its nuclear weapons program. The document, obtained by Japanese press sources, includes bans on trade, air travel, and cash transfers. (Washington Post, 5 June 1994, A1)

Foreign Minister Taro Aso
“I know their [North Korea’s] first concern is the normalization of relations. However, there will be no settlement of the negotiations in this track unless they properly address the issues in other tracks including the abduction issue.[1]” (MOFA, Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Aso, Friday, February 3, 2006, 9:25 a.m).

Japanese Chief Cabinet Minister Shinzo Abe:
"By taking these measures, we have demonstrates the resolve of the international community and Japan…I do not know how North Korea will respond, but I hope North Korea will accept the UN Security Council resolution in a sincere manner." (BBC News, 19 September 2006)

European Union
Commissioner for External Affairs Christopher Patten
“It is difficult in present circumstances to see how we can continue with our contributions [financial contributions to the constructions of two nuclear reactors] unless North Korea makes clear pretty rapidly that they are going to stop their attempts to develop nuclear weapons.” (New York Times, 22 October 2002, A6)

Legal Notes

Terms of the October 21, 1994 Nuclear Framework Agreement

General Terms and Conditions

  • North Korea agrees to freeze its existing nuclear program under enhanced IAEA safeguards.
  • Both sides agree to cooperate to replace the DPRK's graphite moderated reactors with more proliferation-resistant light water reactors (LWR).
  • The two sides agree to move toward full normalization of political and economic relations.
  • Both sides pledge to work together for peace and security on a nuclear free Korean peninsula.
  • Both sides agree to work together to strengthen the international nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Measures Related to the Relaxation of Economic Sanctions

  • Authorizes transactions related to telecommunications connections, credit card use for personal or travel related transactions, and opening of journalist offices.
  • Authorizes DPRK use of the US bank system to clear transactions not originating or terminating in the United States. Unblocks frozen assets where there is no DPRK government interest.
  • Authorizes US imports of magnesite (a refractory material used in the US steel industry, North Korea and China are the world's primary sources of this raw material).
  • Authorizes transactions related to future establishment of liaison offices; case by case participation of US companies in the light water reactor project, supply of alternative energy, and disposition of spent nuclear fuel as provided for by the Agreed Framework, in a manner consistent with applicable laws. (US Department of State, Background Notes—North Korea, 1996)

1 The “tracks” in Japan and North Korea bilateral relation include: the abduction issue, nuclear and missile issues, and normalization talks.

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