North’s isolation grows

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North’s isolation grows

Russia became the latest country to join United Nations-led sanctions on North Korea aimed at cutting off trade and financial transactions that can aid the country’s weapons program following its nuclear and long-range missile tests earlier in the year.

Pyongyang has lost both of its traditional allies, Russia and China, as well as neutral Switzerland, which serves as a safe haven for unregistered and clandestine funds from around the world. Russia’s central bank reportedly was freezing holdings in Russian bonds by North Korean individuals, institutions and organization.

Russia also is expected to announce a presidential order banning transactions with North Korean banks and shutting down all North Korean bank outlets in Russia.

The move is in compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2270 adopted in March after Pyongyang conducted a fourth nuclear test in January and a ballistic missile test in February.

The Swiss government on Wednesday announced its toughest-yet sanctions, freezing and closing all North Korea-related accounts. The ban would disallow North Korean officials from taking money out of accounts in Swiss banks. North Korean banks and accounts will be officially closed down by June 2.

Switzerland is where North Korean leader Kim Jong-un spent his teenage school years. The actions by the European country could be a major blow to North Korea, as it is where its elite stash their ill-gotten money and get many of their luxury goods.

Moscow has always been a moral supporter of Pyongyang to whom the latter can turn when ties soured with Beijing. Russia’s move could be much more than a symbolic setback for North Korea’s leadership.

Kim is slipping further and further away from the pledge to his people to sustain the nuclear program and an improved economy resilience at the Workers’ Party congress earlier this month.

He still has a choice. He can plunge his country into further isolation and eventual doom or rejoin the international community by surrendering his weapons program. He is fast running out of options and time. Kim must reach a sensible conclusion.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 21, Page 26
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