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Tougher sanctions, but will they work?

Sep 13,2017 - Last updated at Sep 13,2017

On Monday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a new sanctions resolution against North Korea, which carried out its sixth nuclear test on September 3, building on UN Security Council Resolution 2371 adopted in August in response to the country’s tests of an intercontinental-range ballistic missile in violation of UN resolutions. 

The sanctions involve new restrictions on shipments of refined hydrocarbons to North Korea, placing a cap at 2 million barrels per year while leaving annual crude oil imports untouched. It also bans the export of several important commodities, including lead, lead ore, iron, iron ore, coal and seafood. Most costly will be the ban on textile exports, which would cost the North Korean economy an estimated $1 billion annually.

The resolution is essentially a compromise between the hardened US position on Pyongyang, whereby Washington was seeking a more forceful resolution with a complete oil embargo, and that of Russia and China, which still want to give diplomacy a chance.

Beijing and Moscow want to leave the door open for negotiations by avoiding pushing the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to the limit and foreclosing all hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough.

Resolution 2371, the seventh of its kind since 2006, puts additional pressure on North Korea through its partial ban on oil imports and slashing its primary exports, like coal and iron, valued at $3 billion, by one-third.

It also bans hiring North Korean workers abroad in a bid to cut down the hard currency that reaches Pyongyang coffers.

China and Russia do not hide their concern about the US army’s deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system in South Korea, which they view as contributing to the escalation of military tension on the Korean Peninsula. 

It is hard to imagine how the newer resolutions would change the North Korean stance when all previous ones failed.

Pyongyang does not appear to respond to pressure and while it must stop its provocations, which endanger regional peace and security, the US and its key supporters must find another way of communicating with the defiant North Korean leader than by increased sanctions that only harm the innocent population, making it more supportive of the ruling regime.


The concerns and fears of the international community must by all means be relayed to the North Korean regime; since Beijing and Moscow believe in keeping lines of communication with Pyongyang open, they are in a better position to make these worries known and work towards peace and security.

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