A mixed approachU.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has mentioned the need to impose “secondary boycott” sanctions on North Korea, which would penalize any third countries doing business with North Korea. We welcome it. In his answers at a recent Senate confirmation hearing, Tillerson said it is necessary to enforce extensive sanctions, including such a secondary boycott, to put pressure on North Korean leaders.
The Barack Obama administration nearly gave up on North Korea in the name of “strategic patience.” Obama took the position that Washington would not talk with Pyongyang if it does not comply with the U.S. government’s call for its denuclearization. Attaching such difficult strings translated into a determination to not deal with a belligerent North Korea.
Compared to such an essentially dismissive approach, the Donald Trump administration is poised to take a different path even if it means building tougher pressure on the regime in Pyongyang. We appreciate the U.S. government’s desire to find a breakthrough in the current stalemate. Security experts on North Korean issues increasingly point to the possibility of Pyongyang test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) soon. Moreover, it has been unclear what kind of North Korea policy the Trump administration would come up with.
Tillerson’s remarks under such circumstances can be seen as a positive sign as they help clear lingering uncertainties about Trump’s attitude.
If the secondary boycott is put into effect, it will have an immediate impact. As seen in the U.S. Treasury Department’s all-out sanctions in 2005 on Macau-based Banco Delta Asia, which had been doing business with North Korea, no financial institution dares to be a target for such sanctions. The boycott will instantly paralyze the North’s financial dealings with the rest of the world. If that happens, North Korea cannot import or export any commodity, not to mention receiving the remittances of North Korean workers overseas. Such sanctions will deal a critical blow to a country that heavily depends on imports for daily necessities.
We must not forget that such hard-line measures are only a means to bring North Korea to the negotiating table. Former U.S. Secretary of Sate Madeleine Albright, who met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang in 2000, urged last month a resumption of dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang. She underscored that we need dialogue because North Korea is a dangerous partner. For now, it is best to ease tension on the Korean Peninsula through a mix of hawkish and dovish strategies.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 10, Page 30