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UN Sanctions and North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder
March 8, 2013

Members of the United Nations Security Council vote to tighten sanctions on North Korea at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, March 7, 2013. In response to North Korea's third nuclear test, the U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to tighten financial restrictions on Pyongyang and crack down on its attempts to ship and receive banned cargo in breach of U.N. sanctions. (Brendan McDermid/courtesy Reuters)


The unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2094 builds on prior UN Security Council resolutions 1695, 1718, 1874, and 2087 in opposing North Korea’s drive to expand its nuclear and missile delivery capabilities.  Each of the UN Security Council resolutions were passed following North Korean long-range rocket launches or nuclear tests.  These resolutions were designed to cut off flows of nuclear and missile technologies between North Korea and the outside world and to signal international disapproval of North Korea’s nuclear-related activities.

The latest resolution is notable for authorizing states to enforce a combination of financial measures against North Korea that attempt to cut off a wide range of financing vehicles related to North Korean nuclear and missile-related activities, including by blocking North Korean officials from carrying “bulk cash” payments related to those programs.  These measures complement the call in previous resolutions for member states to enforce strict inspections on suspected North Korean cargo related to the nuclear and missile programs.  The outstanding question, of course, is whether member states, including China, are prepared to implement these new measures, or whether they will be subjected to a combination of strict interpretations and “willful blindness” on the docks that would render the new measures ineffective.

Thus far, North Korean leaders haven’t taken the hint from previous UN Security Council resolutions, instead doubling-down on defiance and confrontation by pledging to conduct even more tests. In a statement released hours prior to the passage of the resolution, a spokesperson for North Korea’s foreign ministry stated that “as long as the United States is attempting to light the fuse of a nuclear war, our revolutionary armed forces will exercise the right to carry out preemptive nuclear strikes on the strongholds of the aggressors in order to defend the supreme interest of the country” and pledged to “hasten second and third countermeasures of higher intensity that we had already declared.”  Clearly, we are still on a cycle of escalation that could risk North Korea’s survival and would carry extraordinarily high costs for South Korea and the international community.

Before North Korean authorities get too carried away in righteous indignation that the UN Security Council or the United States is pursuing a “hostile policy” designed to stifle North Korea’s rights to exploration of space or science, it is worth noting that once again, the latest UNSC resolution includes an escape clause in that it “reaffirms its support to the Six Party Talks, calls for their resumption, urges all the participants to intensify their efforts on the full and expeditious implementation of the 19 September 2005 [Six Party Talks] Joint Statement.” Likewise, the Obama administration has taken great pains to keep the door open to North Korea’s return to the principles contained in the Leap Day understandings announced in parallel statements on February 29, 2012.

This means that all the measures authorized in UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea remain tactical, designed to deter and punish North Korea for moving in directions that endanger the international interest, not strategic, designed to stifle or end the North Korean regime.  However, as can be seen from this week’s House International Relations Committee hearing, each new North Korean provocation is providing momentum for those who do argue for a “hostile policy” toward North Korea’s leadership, designed to bring about regime change as the only way of finally solving the problem of North Korea’s nuclear defiance. North Korea’s actions seem also to have driven South Korea to adopt a more forceful counter-provocation plan, which now entails striking in addition to the origin and supporting forces of any provocation, North Korea’s command leadership as well.

North Korea’s leadership has long practiced the art of brinkmanship as a tactic that has enabled regime survival in the post-cold war era, but these tactics may well work to North Korea’s strategic disadvantage if the leadership turns a deaf ear to the international community’s frustrations and the UNSC resolutions are vigorously implemented by all member states.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Thangleader

    There are some manners for show a “reputation”. But the way North Korea chooses as a country owning a “nuclear bomb” was not good.

    As you know, North Korea to be honor for its history over 4,000 years. The people of North Korea has the right to be keen of this.
    Imagine, North Korea is trying to escape the ‘prejudice”, “bias” the audience around the world seen them. Why?
    With the cancellation of all agreements between North and South Korea, North Korea has jumped into “hot news” in the internet and electronic newspapers. The life still be run as usual.

    One thing we should to consider is the international laws and national interest. Is that the imposing from outside to North Korea would bring the Koreans to remove their leaders, change the regime or vice-versa, the people would have more and more solidarity around their “fathers”? The observer sees this move would allow the mentor of North Korea – China – to show or actualize their new “policies” or multi-choice tactics for finish a vital ambition over thousand years.

    Right or false, this is two faces of a coin , once more time, to be correct in the North Korea.

    Some key-players are showing their cards, of course, these games cannot end or not final one whilst a replication of cartoon “Tom and Jerry”, cat should be scared if its mouse would become a “rat”.

    The absolute losing belongs to the people of North Korea when their leader shows the incapacity of socio-economy management, the “reputation” of isolated country like it, once only the next generations of Koreans have full rights to conclude it.

  • Posted by liu jinxin


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