Sanctions alone cannot rein in DPRK
To implement Resolution 2270 passed by theUnitedNations Security Council onMarch 2 against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the ChineseMinistry of Commerce has published a list of goods that cannot be imported from or exported to the DPRK.
The list, however, has sparked a debate, especially because it makes exceptions for goods the DPRK people need as basic necessities and those that are for humanitarian aid.
China believes sanctions on the DRPK are aimed at preventing Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons and bringing it back to the negotiation table. But China is opposed to the use of sanctions while excluding dialogue, or “full sanctions” that will harm the interests of ordinary people in the DPRK and could lead to a humanitarian crisis.
The denuclearizing of the Korean Peninsula is linked to the easing of the DPRK’s normal concerns, its security concerns in particular. It is thus unrealistic for theUnited States and the Republic of Korea to propose that the DPRK abandon its nuclear program before talks can be held on other issues. TheUS and the ROK have been pushing for full sanctions on the DPRK in the hope that Beijing would pressure Pyongyang into accepting all the conditions to hold a multilateral dialogue. Their aim, in other words, is to push Pyongyang toward collapse.
China opposes such moves, because it knows they will lead to a humanitarian crisis in the DPRK and could endanger the interests of other countries. In this sense, the publication of the list of embargoed goods is a pragmatic move by China to protect not only the interests of ordinary people in the DPRK but also the security of all the countries inNortheast Asia.
SomeWestern media outlets have deliberately misinterpreted China’s list or focused on Pyongyang’s dissatisfaction with Beijing in a bid to sour China-DPRK ties. The fact is, the essence of Beijing-Pyongyang ties has not changed. There are no essential disputes between Beijing and Pyongyang except for their difference on the Korean Peninsula’s nuclear issue.
China boasts the best record among all countries when it comes to the implementation ofUNsanctions on the DPRK. For example, after theUNpassed Resolution 2094 in the wake of the DPRK conducting the third nuclear test in 2013, China published a list of embargoed goods and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs pressured Pyongyang to meet the demands of the sanctions.
In fact, theUS, Japan and the ROK lost patience and secretly sent representatives to the DPRK or established contacts with it through other channels to fulfill their goals.
The Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, to a certain extent, is the result of Pyongyang’s misguided security policy, which is perhaps based on the outdated ColdWar mentality. Also, continuing security pressure exerted by the US-ROK military alliance on the DPRK has heightened tensions on the peninsula. So, to settle the nuclear issue once and for all, the countries concerned have to not only help the DPRK correct its erroneous security policy by imposing sanctions, but also respond to its top security concerns.
This makes it necessary for the countries concerned to hold sincere talks. And since the Six-Party Talks have proven the most viable platform to resolve the nuclear issue, concerned countries should try to create favorable conditions for its revival.
In its efforts to create a positive environment for the talks, China has proposed the setting up of a peace mechanism aimed at gradually eliminating the remnants of the ColdWar on the Korean Peninsula. And because this constructive approach can help resolve the peninsula nuclear issue, it should be supported by all countries.
The author is an associate researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.