[EDITORIALS]South needs to stand firmInternational sanctions against North Korea are becoming a reality, starting with Japan. Japan imposed financial sanctions on 15 North Korean entities and one Swiss national suspected of being involved in the development of North Korean weapons of mass destruction, and those named will not be allowed to withdraw money from banks inside Japan. Australia has taken similar measures. The United States is expected to reinstall economic sanctions that were lifted in 2000, while in international waters, it is expected to blockade and search North Korean vessels.
North Korea has refused to take a carrot from Washington, which is offering Pyongyang more incentives than the money frozen in a Macao-based bank. It has worsened the situation by going ahead with missile launches despite international urging to refrain from doing so. This is why the international community has opted to use a “stick” now, as it has judged that it has tried in vain.
The South Korean government is now in a very difficult position. Another burden is the strong reaction from North Korea, which has worsened the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. If North Korea conducts a nuclear test, a situation will arise that the government will have trouble handling. For the international community, the chance of persuading the North or to play a card that can subdue it seems to be slight as well. Then there are the differences between Seoul and its allies, the United States and Japan, in dealing with the North, which increases the tension and can make matters worse.
Nevertheless, Seoul is not edging away from its awkward position that it will stay in line with sanctions outlined in a UN resolution adopted in response to a North Korean missile launch in July, but opposes sanctions going beyond that. Neither the international community nor North Korea will listen to such vague measures. Especially if, despite a local bank declining to open a bank account for North Korea inside the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the Unification Ministry puts pressure on the bank, saying it should “consider” the matter. This will not result in a solution to the issue.
This government has tried hard not to agitate the North. Nevertheless, tensions have not eased and we are now at the current sorry state. Humanitarian efforts should be strengthened but if North Korea avoids till the end resolving the nuclear issue, the government needs to devise concrete measures that signal to the North that it, too, will join the sanctions.