On Monday, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted unanimously on a US-drafted resolution that threatens to cut North Korea’s exports by up to 90%.
The new measure bans textile exports and slashes petroleum imports down to just 2 million barrels per year. It also urges countries to inspect all ships entering or leaving North Korean ports and prevents overseas workers from earning money that finances the North Korean regime (this amounts to over $500 million annually).
“Today, we are saying the world will never accept a nuclear armed North Korea, and today the Security Council is saying that if the North Korean regime does not halt its nuclear program, we will act to stop it ourselves,” said US envoy Nikki Haley.
The vote followed a week of talks that began with North Korea’s most powerful bomb test to date.
“We are acting in response to a dangerous new development. These are the strongest measures ever imposed on North Korea,” said Haley, adding that “these steps only work if all nations implement them completely and aggressively.”
The sanctions aren’t as tough as Nikki had originally pushed for, but they represent a victory in the fact that both China and Russia have agreed to them. Some Chinese banks have even started to prohibit North Koreans from setting up new accounts.
“Despite its tough talk, the US is willing to water down its demands to get the support of Russia and China, and that is a calculation that we are more influential when there is Security Council unity,” said Notre Dame professor George Lopez.
Japan and South Korea say they are ready and willing to apply more pressure on North Korea if need be.
North Korea is furious with the UN’s decision, and North Korean ambassador Han Tae Song has vowed to inflict “the greatest pain and suffering [the United States] had ever gone through in its entire history.”
Meanwhile, the UNSC has called to resume six-party talks focused on the denuclearization of North Korea. The talks, which include South Korea, North Korea, Russia, China, Japan, and the United States, broke off in 2009.
“The West needs to convince the world that they have a goal that is realistic and there is a plan beyond just adding sanctions,” explains North Korea expert Andrea Berger. “Beyond sanctions, there is not much cohesion as to the path ahead.”
President Trump has repeatedly asked China to do more to combat Kim’s regime. China has so far refused to shut down its oil pipeline to the peninsula. More recently, both China and Russia have suggested a nuclear freeze in exchange for a halt on joint US-South Korea military drills.
Last Tuesday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the US was ready to put “additional sanctions” on China and “prevent them from accessing the US and international dollar system” if China fails to adhere to the new sanctions on North Korea.