North Korea Is Testing Its Weapons by Launching Ballistic Missiles into the Sky: A Violation of UN Security Council Resolutions

Since 2006, North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs have escalated, leading to UN sanctions and Russia's vetoes, prompting the UN to urge compliance.

North Korea Is Testing Its Weapons by Launching Ballistic Missiles into the Sky: A Violation of UN Security Council Resolutions
A missile being launched into the sky, by Rags Fehrenbach, via Pexels, 2020/September 22nd.

18-04-2024

Pauliina Majasaari

Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

 

On Monday March 18th, 2024, short-range ballistic missiles with the super-large multiple rocket launcher were launched into the sky in North Korea. Kim Jong Un has been conducting multiple tests on its weapons as a part of modernising North Korea’s military. He was reported to have watched the launches live through a tv screen and putting a fist into air as sign of success of the launches.

 

Since 2006, North Korea has been ramping up its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes. As a consequence, the UN Security Council has been imposing sanctions on North Korea through the use of resolutions in which it prohibits certain actions of North Korea in relation to developing nuclear weapons and testing certain missiles and imposing demands on other states to monitor shipments and cargo coming from and going to North Korea. However, Russia vetoed the renewal of the UN Panel of  Experts responsible for monitoring North Korea’s compliance with the international sanctions imposed. Even though the Expert panel’s mandate ends on April 30th 2020, the imposed sanctions since 2006 will remain.Within 2024, North Korea has been testing its weapons for three times already and has done extensive testing, launching a submarine and sending a spy satellite into space. A Comprehensive Military Agreement was signed between North and South Korea in 2018 in order to reduce tensions and increase trust between them. However, after North Korea had launched a spy satellite in the space, South Korea withdrew from some parts of the agreement in the end of 2023 and as a result has been increasing the armed forces and new-type military hardware along the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) between North and South Korea. In lieu, Kim Jong Un scrapped the military pact with South Korea, declaring it as an enemy state, with talks on war preparations and improving North Korea’s readiness on possible armed threats. Now that the military pacts has seized from applying, tensions on the Korean peninsula may increase as Kim Jong Un might be more susceptible to deploying weapons and moving near the DML.

 

The UN Security Council resolutions are legally binding and thereby North Korea should be abiding by the sanctions imposed on it as being a member of the UN. The sanctions include among others, condemning North Korea’s actions in relation to its nuclear and missile activities as well as to suspend its activities within missile and nuclear testing. Furthermore, North Korea should abandon its nuclear programme and UN Member States were banned from directly or indirectly supplying, selling or transferring heavy weaponry, such as tanks, combat air crafts and missile systems and materials and technologies that can assist in furthering activities related to ballistic missile and nuclear activities. In addition, the Member States were authorised to inspect North Korean cargo on land, air, and sea and seize any prohibited items as well as to refrain from providing financial assistance by any means to North Korea. All the aforementioned sanctions were adopted under Article 41 of the UN Charter to give effect to the Resolutions which provide for the sanctions.

 

As apparent from the multiple missile launch tests, North Korea is not abiding by its international commitments as imposed by the UN Security Council Resolutions. For example, the launch of spy satellite (Maligayang-1) is banned under UN Security council sanctions to prevent the furthering of the nuclear-armed ballistic missile programme of North Korea. Despite, suspending the use of plutonium-producing reactor, related to nuclear weapons, North Korea has restarted the reactor again, which is in contradiction with the UN Security Council Resolutions on suspending all nuclear activity. Additionally, such activities by North Korea create threats to the regional security of the countries surrounding it, conflicting with the core principles of the UN, to maintain peace and security.

 

Consequently, North Korea is urged by the international community and especially by the UN to stop the ballistic missile testing as well as stop developing the missile and nuclear programmes within. Furthermore, UN Member States are urged to impose unilateral and collective sanctions on North Korea and to their best abilities inform each other and the Sanctions Committee of possible violations of the sanctions imposed on North Korea. In lieu with the aforementioned, it is important to note that the General Assembly has the power to override the Security Council’s veto by two thirds vote as long as the veto by a permanent member of the Security Council was not made in an ‘emergency special session’. In case the General Assembly would override the veto, the resulting resolution is not binding, however it does bear significant political weight which could aid in keeping North Korea in line with its obligations, in case Russia keeps using its veto to prevent resolutions of the Security Council from passing. As such the testing and progressive creation of such powerful weaponry by North Korea is against the UN principles of maintaining peace and security between the nations of the world and thereby should be suspended.

Sources and further readings:

 

Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International court of Justice (adopted 26 June 1945, entered into force 24 October 1954) 1 UNTS 16 (UN Charter).

 

Eric Ballbach, ‘After Russia’s Veto: The Future of the Sanctions Regime Against North Korea’ Stimson (12 April 2024) <https://www.38north.org/2024/04/after-russias-veto-the-future-of-the-sanctions-regime-against-north-korea/> accessed 18 March 2024.

 

Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia (South West Africa) notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276 (Advisory Opinion) 1970 ICJ Rep 1971.

 

‘North Korea fires suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile’ Al Jazeera (2 April 2024) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/4/2/north-korea-fires-suspected-intermediate-range-ballistic-missile> accessed 18 April 2024.

 

‘North Korea’s Kim oversees ‘super-large’ rocket launcher drills’ Al Jazeera (19 March 2024) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/3/19/north-koreas-kim-oversees-super-large-rocket-launcher-drills> accessed 18 April 2024.

 

‘North Korea suspends Seoul military agreement, restores troops at border’ Al Jazeera (23 November 2023) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/11/23/north-korea-suspends-seoul-military-agreement-restores-troops-at-border> accessed 18 April 2024.

 

‘Russia blocks renewal of UN panel monitoring North Korea sanctions’ Al Jazeera (29 March 2024) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/3/29/russia-blocks-renewal-of-un-panel-monitoring-n-korea-sanction-compliance> accessed 18 April 2024.

 

‘UN Security Council Resolutions on North Korea’ Arms Control Association <https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/UN-Security-Council-Resolutions-on-North-Korea> accessed 18 April 2024.

 

‘What Happens When the UN Security Council Can’t Agree?’ Better World Campaign (21 October 2023) <https://betterworldcampaign.org/blog/un-security-council-veto> accessed 2 May 2024.