Keeping up on sanctions

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Keeping up on sanctions

The UN Security Council unanimously passed a fresh set of sanctions — Resolution 2371 — on North Korea that included a ban on its coal, iron, and lead exports. Coming to the unanimous agreement had not been easy. Though the Security Council did not go as far as cutting off the country’s oil supply, as demanded by the United States, they are nevertheless the toughest-yet sanctions, and drew endorsement from China and Russia.

The keystone of the new resolution is blocking North Korea’s key source of revenue in foreign currency through trade of coal and seafood. Coal takes up 40 percent of total North Korean exports. It is relatively cheap for North Korea to secure coal as it is mostly derived from open-pit mines. The sanction on its coal shipments could hit the Kim Jong-un regime hard.

The question is how faithfully China complies with the sanctions. The past seven UNSC resolutions have not deterred the North Korean weapons program largely because of China. It has feigned compliance at first and then went on to trade with North Korea every time. The North Korean economy was able to expand 3.9 percent in 2015 even under trade sanctions on North Korean coal. China must make sure no North Korean coal, as well as other prohibited commodities, arrives on its shore.

Other nations also must comply. Russia, which has been increasing trade with North Korea, must cooperate with the new sanctions even though its relationship with the United States is touchy. Russia must remember that North Korea’s advanced missile technology poses a threat to the entire region and could undermine its ambition to rebuild its economy. North Korea has been importing 200,000 to 300,000 tons of petroleum products from Russia over the last 20 years from an agent in Singapore.

States like Cuba and Syria, who have been friendly with Pyongyang, must also oblige with the new sanctions. Seoul must earn a pledge of support from 27 Asian countries at the Asean Regional Forum. It must also check compliance whenever it has talks with Washington and Beijing.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 7, Page 30
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