Australia upgrades sanctions on North Korea

On 2 June 2017, while the United States continued to pressure China to act in restraining North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK), Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced that she had designated five North Korean individuals for ‘targeted financial sanctions and travel bans because of their association with North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction or missiles programs’.

This follows through on the Foreign Minister’s announcement in December 2016, following a new United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution on North Korea, that ‘in addition to these strong multilateral measures, I continue to assess and designate individuals and entities linked to the regime’s weapons and missile programs for targeted financial sanctions and travel bans. I am considering further autonomous measures Australia can impose’. This statement was followed by public consultation on expanding Australia’s sanctions on North Korea. The new sanctions were presaged in April 2017 during the visit by Foreign Minister Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne to Japan for the Seventh Japan-Australia 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations.

The United Nations first imposed sanctions on North Korea in 2006, following the DPRK’s ballistic missile test. Resolution 1718 of that year also provided for a Security Council Sanctions Committee. Sanctions were extended in 2009 following a nuclear test by the DPRK, and a UNSC Panel of Experts was created to assist the 1718 Sanctions Committee (DPRK) which oversees the sanctions imposed. The year 2013 saw two UNSC resolutions imposing further sanctions on North Korea, the first in response to the DPRK’s launch of a satellite, and the second in response to North Korea’s third nuclear test. A March 2016 UNSC Resolution imposed an expanded arms embargo and non-proliferation measures. Then, in November of that year, Australia co-sponsored a UN Security Council motion to impose further sanctions on North Korea to condemn that country’s 9 September nuclear test. The resultant Resolution 2321 was unanimously adopted by the Security Council on 30 November 2016. On 2 June 2017, the same day as Australia’s autonomous sanctions were announced, the UNSC adopted Resolution 2356 (2017), which extended the number and scope of sanctions against the DPRK.

The majority of the sanctions which Australia implements in respect of North Korea are imposed by the United Nations, and Australia is obliged to implement these as a UN member state. Within Australia, these sanctions are implemented through a range of domestic legislation, some of which also restricts the export or import of goods and services to or from North Korea; limits commercial activities; restricts vessel movements; imposes travel bans on individuals; and institutes targeted financial sanctions.

The latest sanctions are Australian autonomous sanctions, which means they have been imposed unilaterally by Australia under the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011. The North Korean individuals and entities subject to autonomous sanctions under this legislation are listed in Autonomous Sanctions (Designated Persons and Entities – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) List 2012 and Autonomous Sanctions (Designated Persons and Entities – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Amendment List 2017. The US, Japan and South Korea have their own autonomous sanctions regimes.

The persons the Australian Government added to its list of sanctioned North Korean individuals in June 2017 are:

  1. Kang Chol Su, an official of the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation based in Linjiang, China
  2. Pak Il Gyu, an official of the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation based in Shenyang, China
  3. Jang Sung Nam, Dalian Branch Chief of the Tangun Trading Corporation, China
  4. Han Jang Su, the DPRK Foreign Trade Bank chief representative in Moscow, Russia
  5. Kim Tong Ho, the DPRK Tanchon Commercial Bank representative in Vietnam

According to the Foreign Minister’s listing, these persons are ‘associated with the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction or missiles program’. As such, Australians are prohibited from using or dealing with the assets of these individuals, or providing them with assets, and they are prohibited from entering Australia.

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control had already imposed sanctions on all of these individuals in March 2017, reflecting the close ties between Australia and the United States in the sanctioning of DPRK entities and individuals. Kim Tong Ho is also sanctioned under UNSC Resolution 2356 (2017).

The sanctioning of these individuals is intended to restrict the development of nuclear weapons and threatening missile technologies. The February 2017 Report of the UN Panel of Experts established pursuant to UNSC Resolution 1874 (2009) to examine the UN sanctions imposed on DPRK, provides a very detailed study of the UN sanctions on the DPRK and, in many cases, how they are being circumvented through Chinese companies. The Korea Ryonbong General Corporation was designated for UN sanctions in April 2009 following the establishment of a joint venture in 2008 between Chinese company Limac and Ryonbong to mine tantalum, niobium, and zirconium—materials that can be used in nuclear reactors and missile technology. It appears that these new sanctions on the company’s officials in China are intended to reduce Ryonbong’s capacity to procure such metals through China.

Tangun Trading Corporation was listed by the UN on 16 July 2009 ‘as being engaged in or providing support for, including through other illicit means, DPRK’s nuclear-related, other weapons of mass destruction-related and ballistic missile-related programmes’. Further US sanctions were imposed on the company in 2015. Again, the new listing seems to be aimed at restricting the activities of the company in China. The listing of Kim Tong Ho, the Tanchon Commercial Bank representative in Vietnam, simply updates the earlier sanction. The previous representative, Kim Jung Jong, had been designated in August 2015. The bank itself was designated by the UN in 2009 and described as the ‘main DPRK financial entity for sales of conventional arms, ballistic missiles, and goods related to the assembly and manufacture of such weapons’.

Australia’s overall sanctions on the DPRK and other countries, entities and individuals are detailed in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Consolidated List


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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