North Korea remains the only country in the world to conduct nuclear tests in the 21st century, gradually increasing its capacity to effectively launch nuclear warheads into neighboring countries, or even continents. Their defiance is such that even as diplomats were negotiating the current resolution in January, they continued with their fourth nuclear test, launching a rocket in February.
Frustrated by North Korea’s defiance, the United Nations Security Council proposed to take drastic measures, via sanctions, to halt further development of their nuclear capabilities. A unanimous vote (including strong support from China) set the wheels in motion and a number of harsh policies have been put in place. Just a few hours after the resolution had been passed, North Korea launched a number of missiles into the ocean in an apparent act of rebellion.
According to Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the sanctions will:
- Require all North Korean planes and ships carrying cargo to be inspected. In the past, cargo would only be inspected when there were reasonable grounds, allowing contraband goods to be hidden in unobtrusive packages.
- Ban Pyongyang from exporting most of the country’s natural resources, thereby limiting income for nuclear projects.
- Ask U.N. member states to ban North Korea from opening banks, and to close any banks believed to be associated with their nuclear and missile programs.
- Direct member states to expel North Korean diplomats and foreign nationals engaged in illicit activities.
- Prohibit nations from providing training to North Korean nationals in fields that could advance the nation’s missile and nuclear program.
- Ban member states from allowing North Korea to charter foreign vessels or aircraft, and ban all nations from operating any vessels that use North Korean flags.
- Prohibit the supply of aviation fuel — including rocket fuel — and the sale of small arms to North Korea.
In addition to the above, a ban has been placed on the supply of most luxury goods to North Korea, extending to civilian or commercial vehicles that could be converted into military vehicles to promote their armed force’s potential.
The success of these sanctions, to a large extent, depends on how effectively China can enforce them along its 880-mile border with North Korea. The two countries can still trade in oil (from China) and minerals (coal and iron ore from North Korea), as long as this trade is not used to bolster North Korea’s nuclear program. How this is to be determined is anybody’s guess. Smuggling is also rife, being orchestrated largely by Communist Party and military officials.
U.S. President Barack Obama responded positively to the sanctions.
“Today, the international community, speaking with one voice, has sent Pyongyang a simple message: North Korea must abandon these dangerous programs and choose a better path for its people.”
China’s ambassador, Liu Jieyi, was less than enthusiastic about the impact of sanctions.
“Sanctions are not an end to themselves,” he said, “and the Security Council cannot fundamentally resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.” He went on to say, “Today’s resolution should be a new starting point and a paving stone for the political settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.”
How North Korea will respond to these harsh sanctions is unclear at this stage, as it is quick to point out it feels they are intended to bring down its government. The probability of Kim Jong-un coming forward to negotiate easing up on the nuclear program is low.
Joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea will be taking place shortly. During such exercises, North Korea usually expresses itself more aggressively, but the likelihood of large scale military action is low. South Korea is, however, concerned about cyber attacks, or small border scuffles aimed at provoking them, and has passed a new anti-terrorism law to offer more protection against small-scale attacks of this nature.
[Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]