Finally bowing to intense pressure from the Trump administration, the United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed Saturday to impose a new round of intense sanctions against North Korea. Passed in response to recent nuclear and intercontinental missile tests conducted by the Kim Jong Un regime, the resolution calls on Pyongyang to renounce its nuclear program and abide by previous resolutions set by the UN.
The new restrictions prohibit North Korean exports such as coal, iron, lead, and seafood as well as any expansion of their foreign worker program, from which the regime obtains much of its ongoing funding. Combined, the resolution could slash the country’s export revenue by $1 billion, which would reduce its total by a third. In a statement, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said they represented the stiffest sanctions against a country passed in a generation.
“This is a strong, united step toward holding North Korea accountable for its behavior,” Haley said.
The sanctions came as somewhat of a surprise move by the Security Council, and many experts are attributing the move to President Trump’s clear message to the Chinese. Trump, unlike his predecessors, has demonstrated his willingness – however reluctant it may be – to use military force against North Korea if it’s needed. That has inspired China to go along with the sanctions and to finally bring pressure to bear on Pyongyang. Will China actually abide by the sanctions it voted for? Probably not. But merely by making the vote, North Korea’s benefactor has sent Kim Jong Un an unmistakable warning: Knock it off, because this guy in the White House is serious.
At a diplomatic gathering in Manila, Chinese Foreign Minister Wag Yi urged Kim Jong Un to “maintain calm” in the wake of the vote.
“Do not violate the UN’s decision or provoke international society’s goodwill by conducting missile launching or nuclear tests,” said Wang.
Unfortunately – if not unpredictably – North Korea responded to the sanctions with its usual bluster. North Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Ri Yong-ho said that “under no circumstances” would the regime give up its nuclear weapons program. In what was apparently intended as a word of calm towards American allies, Ri said that North Korea would not use their nuclear missiles against any country “except the U.S.” He went further, explaining that Pyongyang was “ready to teach the U.S. a severe lesson with its nuclear strategic force.”
We’ll see if these sanctions bring a wave of rationality to the Kim Jong Un regime or if it pushes them further to the brink of self (and God-knows-what-else) destruction.