UN Approves New Sanctions On North Korea: Could They Work This Time?

On March 2, the United Nations’ Security Council voted unanimously approved a resolution calling for new and enhanced sanctions on North Korea in response to their continued pursuit of a nuclear weapon and its recent ballistic missile activities.

“Today’s unanimous action by the Security Council has sent a clear message that the DPRK must return to full compliance with its international obligations,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

“This firm response by the Security Council should put an end to the cycle of provocation and lead to the resumption of dialogue in accordance with the unified view of the international community,” he added.

In February, a report was sent to the Security Council detailing how North Korea was evading existing sanctions in order to continue on a course toward development of a nuclear weapon.

The European Union also is considering additional sanctions in light of the UN’s action.

However, Pyongyang’s recent “hydrogen” bomb test and its subsequent launch of a ballistic missile have shown that sanctions have to date failed to thwart North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and illicit actions.

Furthermore, almost immediately after the UN approved the tougher sanctions, South Korean media reported that Pyongyang fired several short-range missiles into the sea as a means of protest.

Their defiance underscores the difficulty in ensuring enforcement of the sanctions, but the regime in North Korea is not the only problem.

According to a report released in February, enforcement of the sanctions have been complicated by a number of African countries who have been conducting arms deals with North Korea, including Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The report produced by the Royal United Services Institute found that while Middle East and Asian nations, such as Libya, Pakistan and the UAE, ended much of their nuclear trade with Pyongyang in response to international pressure, the North Koreans simply shifted to the African continent.

There are those, including Thomas Byrne of the Korea Society, believes sanctions might work now because China has adopted a firmer stance toward its usual ally.

Byrne notes that the new round of sanctions include those specifically targeting the nation’s commercial trade and the increased limitations placed on Pyongyang’s access to the international financial system.

“The global slump in commodities prices means the North’s exports of coal, iron ore and other commodities aren’t bringing in what they once did. Meanwhile, demand from China is also in steep decline as the Chinese economy slows. In 2015 North Korean exports to China fell 13%. The mutually reinforcing web of newly emerging international sanctions suggests that this time is different from the past,” writes Byrne in a Wall Street Journal column.

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