UN Security Council Resolution 2397 on North Korea


December 22, 2017

In response to the November 29, 2017 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch by North Korea, United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2397 imposes strong new sanctions on North Korea’s energy, export, and import sectors with new maritime authorities to help shut down North Korea’s illicit smuggling activities. UNSCR 2397 builds on UNSCR 2375 (2017), which included the strongest sanctions ever imposed on North Korea, and prior resolutions. This resolution imposes the following measures:

1. Refined Petroleum Products (OP5): Reduces UNSCR 2375 annual cap on refined petroleum exports by 75% to allow a maximum of 500,000 barrels/year to North Korea.

  • In 2016, North Korea imported 4.5 million barrels/year of refined petroleum.
  • After the September nuclear test, the Security Council capped refined petroleum exports to North Korea at 2 million barrels.
  • By reducing this cap to 500,000 barrels, North Korea’s import of gasoline, diesel, and other refined products will be cut by a total of 89% from summer 2017.

2. Crude Oil (OP4): Strengthens UNSCR 2375 freeze on crude oil by establishing a 4 million barrels/year or 525,000 tons/year annual limit. Increases transparency of crude oil provided to North Korea by requiring supplying member states to provide quarterly reports to the 1718 Sanctions Committee on amounts of crude oil provided to North Korea.

3. Commitment to Future Oil Reductions (OP27): Commits the Security Council to reduce further petroleum exports to North Korea following another nuclear test or an ICBM launch, sending a strong new political signal to North Korea about future Security Council responses.

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4. Countering Maritime Smuggling (OPs 9-15): Provides additional tools to crack down on smuggling and sanctions evasion, including a new requirement for countries to seize and impound ships caught smuggling illicit items including oil and coal.

5. North Korean Overseas Workers (OP8): Requires countries to expel all North Korean laborers earning income abroad immediately but no later than 24 months later (end of 2019).

  • The North Korean regime is believed to be earning over $500 million each year from heavily taxing the nearly 100,000 overseas North Korean workers, with as many as 80,000 working in China (about 50,000) and Russia (about 30,000) alone.
  • Exempts the repatriation of North Korean defectors, refugees, asylum seekers, and trafficking victims who will face persecution and torture when repatriated by the North Korean regime.

6. Ban DPRK Exports (OP6): Bans all remaining categories of major DPRK exports.

  • Previous Security Council resolutions banned North Korea’s export sectors covering around 90% of its export revenue (e.g., coal, textiles, seafood, iron).
  • Banning the remaining major export sectors – including food, agricultural products, minerals machinery, electrical equipment – will cut off $200 million or more of annual export revenues.
  • Revenues from these exports in 2016 constituted nearly 10% of total exports or $264 million.

7. Ban DPRK Imports (OP7): Bans North Korea from importing heavy machinery, industrial equipment, and transportation vehicles, which constituted about 30% of North Korea’s 2016 imports worth nearly $1.2 billion. Exempts the provision of spare parts for civilian passenger aircraft for air safety reasons.

8. Protects Humanitarian and Diplomatic Activities in North Korea: Imposes new measures aimed at the North Korean regime and the elite by targeting industrial and other major economic activities while preventing North Korea from exporting food and agricultural products. Provides a number of exemptions aimed at protecting the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the North Korean people and not impeding the work of diplomatic and consular missions operating in North Korea.

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9. Sanctions Designations (Annexes): Adds 16 new individuals and 1 entity connected to the financing and development of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs to the UN’s sanctions list.


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