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UN arms embargo on North Korea

North Korea is under a comprehensive and open-ended UN arms embargo that prohibits the exports of weapons to and imports of weapons from the country.  In June 2006 the UN Security Council established an embargo on exports of major arms to and imports from North Korea.  In June 2009 Security Council Resolution 1874 widened the embargo to all arms, except for the export small arms and light weapons to the country. In 2015 the UN Security Council expanded the embargo to include all small arms and light weapons.

In October 2006, the UN passed Security Council Resolution 1718, adopted unanimously as part of a set of sanctions. The Resolution inter alia prohibits states to directly or indirectly supply, or help to supply, North Korea with major conventional weapons as defined by the UN Register of Conventional Weapons - battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers - as well as ballistic missiles. The Resolution was in reaction to a claimed nuclear test by North Korea in 2006.

The resolution also prohibits the supply of related spare parts along with 'technical training, advice, services or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of' the listed items. In addition, the resolution prohibits states to procure major conventional weapons and ballistic missiles or materiels and technology related to such weapons from North Korea. Unlike most UNSC arms embargoes, SALW (Small Arms and Light Weapons) and other equipment delivered specifically for military use was not covered by resolution 1718.

In June 2009, Security Council Resolution 1874, also adopted unanimously and in response to a claimed nuclear test, extended the embargo on arms supplies to North Korea to include all arms and related materiel, except for small arms and light weapons. It called upon States to exercise vigilance over the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK of small arms or light weapons, and obligated States to notify the relevant UN sanctions Committee at least five days prior to selling, supplying or transferring small arms or light weapons to the DPRK. Resolution 1874 extended the embargo on the procurement of arms from North Korea to all arms and related materials, without exceptions. The Resolution also called on Member States to inspect and destroy all banned cargo to and from North Korea on the high seas, at seaports and airports if they have reasonable grounds to suspect a violation.

In February 2016 Security Council Resolution 2270 was adopted unanimously in response to a further nuclear test by North Korea in January 2016. It expanded the arms embargo on North Korea to include small arms and light weapons.

Last updated on
Embargo type: Mandatory UN embargoes
Entry into force:
Establishing document: UNSCR 1718