By Jackson Lied
On Monday, September 11, 2017, the United Nations Security Council voted in favor of the strongest sanctions against North Korea yet. This followed the sixth and largest nuclear test by North Korea that took place only a week prior. Under these drastic circumstances, the United States called for the most extreme measures to date to be taken against the regime immediately after the test.
The draft resolution, reported by The Washington Post to have been circulated by the U.S., included banning oil and natural gas imports, banning textile exports, and freezing foreign financial assets of Kim Jong Un and the entirety of the government, amongst other measures.
With the talk of new sanctions, the North Korea State media issued a response. Similar to past circumstances, they threatened that they were “ready and willing” to respond if the U.S., acting alongside the U.N., imposed new sanctions. Their view of the U.S. was, as described by their media statement, that the “U.S. is revealing its nature as a blood thirsty beast,” said the Washington Post.
The sanctions that passed, however, were not as extreme as the initial draft. It excluded the ban on oil imports, limiting it to a still severe restriction. It removed Kim Jong Un from the freezing of assets, it did, however, keep the damaging ban on textile imports. Despite changes from the original draft, the backlash from North Korea was still present and extreme.
Han Tae Song, the North Korean ambassador to the U.N., stated that “The forthcoming measures by DPRK [the Democratic Republic of Korea] will make the U.S. suffer the greatest pain it has ever experienced in its history,” said BBC.
Continuing escalation such as this has brought ideas for resolution from other world leaders, in particular, the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. Merkel stated that a solution similar to the Iran Nuclear Deal sealed with Tehran in 2015 would be prudent here, and even offered her immediate assistance if such a deal were in the works. “If our participation in talks is desired,” said Merkel, “I will immediately say yes,” reports The Guardian. This type of deal would agree to remove sanctions in exchange for the lessening of nuclear capabilities.
There are two issues with a solution such as this. The first impediment is that United States President Donald Trump has already proven to be critical of the standing deal with Iran. The second is that such a deal was partly possible as Iran did not, at the time, have a developed nuclear arsenal, whereas North Korea does.
Another predicament regarding sweeping resolutions is that China and Russia both hold interests in the Korean Peninsula. According to Artyom Lukin, an expert on North Korea working in Russia, there are security concerns for Russia and China if North Korea were to be overly angered by a misstep by either the U.S. or U.N, reports South China Morning Post.
North Korea acts as a buffer state between the east and the U.S. sphere of influence in South Korea and Japan. As a result, any instability in the region, such as regime change, could mean disaster on Russian and Chinese borders.
This entire cycle, of nuclear advancement, sanction, and the resulting threats, is not new. The sanctions passed on Monday have gone to the furthest extent yet since the most recent one before it in August, but this is not the end. U.S. President Donald Trump called this a, “very small step,” and, “nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen,” reports BBC.
The DPRK is not recognized by all U.N. members does not an ambassador. In its place, they have a special envoy.