Commentary | North Korea’s seemingly single-minded devotion to building nuclear weapons has been resulting in international opposition for years. However, their resilience to economic sanctions and refusal to really even acknowledge the condemnations of the international community beg the question: what type of disciplinary action towards North Korea would be effective at this point?
We have seen North Korea take forceful action against South Korea including shelling of civilians and the sinking of a submarine. While North Korea is not exactly on the verge of obtaining long-range nuclear missiles, they have been altogether hostile and unpredictable, and the threat of some sort of large-scale military action on their part is very real.
So far, there have been various embargos set forth on military and technological materials as well as luxury goods. These have not, however, been strong enough to force North Korea to slow their development of nuclear weapons. Some financial sanctions have been imposed, but China, North Korea’s only major ally and advocate has often thwarted truly effective measures.
However, recently China has become less defensive of North Korea and has agreed to the imposition of harsher sanctions, signing the final draft of the proposed measures instead of using their veto to prevent them as some thought they would do. This came after weeks of negotiations sparked by North Korea’s declaration that they reserve the right to carry out a preemptive nuclear attack in the interests of the country.
The new sanctions will focus on reducing the flow of money pouring into North Korea’s nuclear development program by keeping an eye on North Korean banks and cash couriers who may be helping to provide and move funds for the regime. The UN resolution will also mean more careful checks on sea and air shipments of goods to prevent them from receiving the materials they need for their program. It also restricts the sale of certain materials known for being used in nuclear weapon development and blocks that of luxury goods.
Experts and analysts say that North Korea is far from achieving the ability to mount, aim and successfully launch a nuclear warhead at a target and that they are more likely to attempt to obtain leverage through threats and the improving of their defensive military capabilities rather than through actual direct military action against the United States. Nonetheless, they have said that they plan to set aside the armistice that ended The Korean War and warned The US and South Korea that this means it can now take military action against them.
Sanctions imposed in the past in response to nuclear development and testing have largely been undermined by and, consequently, ineffective due to China’s aid to North Korea. Providing them with energy, food, and economic assistance has lessened the impact of the sanctions and allowed North Korea to continue its military endeavors.
For any sanctions to be successful, China will need to crack down along with the rest of the Security Council so that North Korea will have no choice but to address what would then be its dire situation regarding its economy as well as its basic needs. Hopefully North Korea has finally pushed China to its breaking point but only time will tell. China will be the key proponent of these sanctions, the success or failure of which will depend on China’s commitment to ending North Korea’s antics once and for all.
Jay Gatz grew up in Massachusetts and has always had a passion for politics, entertainment, sports, and all things international. He is also very interested in philosophy and some of his hobbies include tennis, guitar, and, perhaps somewhat obviously, writing.