Sanc­tions alone WON’T CHANGE North Korea


The Nation - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

Last week, the United Na­tions im­posed new sanc­tions on North Korea. Un­for­tu­nately, it was not enough to con­tain the sit­u­a­tion. A com­pro­mise had to be made to avoid a veto by Rus­sia and China. There­fore, a tougher mea­sure that the United States and other mem­bers were hop­ing for had to be shelved.

Wash­ing­ton got as much as pos­si­ble out of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil with Mon­day’s unan­i­mous vote to im­pose new sanc­tions on North Korea — but that is not enough.

Wash­ing­ton was hop­ing for a ban on all oil ex­ports to North Korea and the freez­ing of North Korean as­sets out­side the coun­try. But this lat­est mea­sure, the strong­est yet, in­cludes a ban on tex­tile ex­ports, and the right to in­spect ships going into and out of the coun­try.

The goal is to force Py­ongyang to give up its nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grammes. Ob­vi­ously, it has not worked. But that does not mean the measures are worth­less.

Not un­ex­pect­edly, North Korea hit out against the UN res­o­lu­tion. Py­ongyang “sternly de­nounces and ut­terly re­jects” the lat­est UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion, a state­ment said. Py­ongyang also re­it­er­ated that it will “need to fol­low this path even faster with­out chang­ing un­til we see the end”.

North Korea warned that the United States would “suf­fer the great­est pain”.

In the even­tual anal­y­sis, the lat­est UN sanc­tion is a very small step when one takes into con­sid­er­a­tion the ul­ti­mate aim.

But the UN ini­tia­tive is not the only way to earn le­git­i­macy in the cam­paign against North Korea. A “coali­tion of the will­ing”, as seen in the US-led wars against Sad­dam Hus­sein’s Iraq, was cre­ated with­out UN back­ing.

In other words, it should not come as a sur­prise if the US de­cides to act uni­lat­er­ally. Of course, there could be a nasty re­ac­tion from China, North Korea’s ally, and main trad­ing part­ner.

US Pres­i­dent Donald Trump said the lat­est sanc­tion was a “very small step”. It not only re­flects Wash­ing­ton’s dis­sat­is­fac­tion. It also sug­gested that they might be up to some­thing that could very well be above and be­yond the UN res­o­lu­tion.

North Korea’s nu­clear and lon­grange mis­sile de­vel­op­ment will not make it safer. It may help Py­ongyang in­crease its bar­gain­ing power but it will not shield it from strikes by the US and its al­lies.

The world has to make it clear to Py­ongyang and spell out clearly what the con­se­quences would be should North Korea cross the red line that has yet to be de­fined.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has shown the world that for him the wel­fare of his peo­ple is not im­por­tant. They have been suf­fer­ing for decades and sanc­tions are likely to make their lives even more mis­er­able.

But for Kim, the sur­vival of the regime is of the ut­most im­por­tance. Kim be­lieves a nu­clear weapon is his best in­sur­ance against regime change.

The chal­lenge for the world is how to let Py­ongyang know that even with nu­clear weapons they will not be safe if they don’t change their be­hav­iour to­wards their neigh­bours and the rest of the world.

The con­ver­sa­tion among the world com­mu­nity is to stop North Korea’s nu­clear bomb project at all costs. This means a first strike is also an op­tion.

But the hu­man­i­tar­ian cost will be so enor­mous that the US and its coali­tion mem­bers, if any, will have to re­ally do some se­ri­ous soulsearch­ing. But the world must not stop look­ing for in­cen­tives to make North Korea to be­have rea­son­ably.

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