U.N. imposes tough sanctions on North Korea
Security Council penalties are expected to cut nation’s annual exports by $1 billion.
NEW YORK — The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved a sanctions resolution that the United States said was the strictest imposed “on any country in a generation,” banning North Korea from exporting many of its most lucrative products, ranging from coal to iron ore to seafood and even some of its artwork.
The tough new sanctions would slice $1 billion from North Korea’s total annual exports of $3 billion, the State Department said.
“This resolution is the single largest economic sanctions package ever leveled against the North Korean regime,” said United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. “This is the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation.”
The U.S.-drafted resolution has been in the works since July 4, when North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching Alaska. That was followed up by another test July 28, which helped the U.S. persuade China and Russia, North Korea’s traditional allies, to overcome their opposition to the resolution.
President Trump, who has been struggling on how to respond to North Korea’s recent actions, signaled his approval on Twitter. “The United Nations Security Council just voted 15-0 to sanction North Korea. China and Russia voted with us. Very big financial impact!”
If enforced, the biggest financial hit of the resolution will be the ban on coal, which brings in more than $400 million in revenue for Kim Jong Un’s government. The ban on the export of seafood, prized in Asia because of the relatively clean North Korean waters, will trim $300 million from the country’s exports, according to the State Department.
The resolution also sets a cap on the number of North Korean guest workers abroad, a figure estimated to be at least 50,000. And the resolution freezes the assets of the Mansudae Art Studio, which has been building Soviet-style statues and monuments for dictatorial governments around the world, mostly in Africa.
Another key measure is that the resolution slapped an asset freeze on the Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea’s primary bank for foreign currency exchange.
The resolution will also allow the U.N. to ban specific vessels that are breaking sanctions from entering ports all over the world.
This is the eighth time since 2006 that the U.N. Security Council has adopted a resolution in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests. Frustrated North Korea analysts were dubious that this latest measure would halt Pyongyang’s rush toward developing a workable nuclear warhead.
Objections by China and Russia led the resolution drafters to remove a clause that would have barred imports of fuel oil to North Korea. And more important, the resolution didn’t impose sanctions on the Chinese companies and individuals who have helped North Korea evade sanctions.
“While the restrictions seem tough on the surface, they rely on the Chinese and Russians to enforce them,’’ said Anthony Ruggiero, an analyst for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He said the resolution might actually be counterproductive in that it will allow China and Russia to claim they are cooperating in efforts to rein in North Korea.
“The U.S. government had been moving towards sanctioning Chinese companies and individuals, but they have backed away from that,” said Ruggiero. “I fear people in the Trump administration will now say, ‘Well, we can’t do anything more because we have to give the Chinese the chance to implement the new resolution.’”
Even so, Trump singled out China and Russia for praise. Though he’s been at odds with the two countries on various issues, on Saturday night the White House released a statement saying that he “appreciates China and Russia’s cooperation in securing passage of the resolution.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday before leaving for a trip to Asia that the U.S. isn’t trying to overthrow Kim, but hopes sanctions will serve as “peaceful pressure” to bring his government to negotiations.
Kim, one of the youngest world leaders, took over with the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011, and has since accelerated the pace of missile and nuclear tests. In its official statements, North Korea has said it needs nuclear weapons to prevent Kim from being overthrown by the West in the manner of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Moammar Kadafi.
By Sunday in Pyongyang, the North Korean government had not responded to the U.N.’s action.
But a week earlier, the government offered a damning comment after Trump signed a bill that imposed sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia. The Korean Central News Agency quoted an unnamed official with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who said, “The act of the U.S., which is so fond of rigging up sanctions law and brandishing the sanctions club against other sovereign states, is no better than a hooligan which cannot be allowed by international law as well.”
WORKERS at the Chollima Steel Complex outside Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. The sanctions will hurt the vital steel industry.
U.S. AMBASSADOR Nikki Haley confers with Chinese counterpart Liu Jieyi before the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved the sanctions package.