China backs sanc­tions on North Korea

U.S. tries to ease worry over scan­dal in South

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY GUY TAY­LOR AND DAVE BOYER

The U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil unan­i­mously pushed through a harsh slate of sanc­tions against North Korea on Wed­nes­day — even win­ning sup­port from China to slash coal im­ports from its nu­clear-armed neigh­bor — a day af­ter the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion sought to ease re­gional con­cerns over a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis grip­ping South Korea.

Act­ing in re­sponse to Py­ongyang’s fifth and largest nu­clear test car­ried out in Septem­ber, the res­o­lu­tion adopted by the 15-mem­ber Se­cu­rity Coun­cil also put a ban on North Korean cop­per, nickel, sil­ver and zinc ex­ports, with the goal of slash­ing the na­tion’s ex­port rev­enue by about 25 per­cent over the com­ing year.

The sanc­tions in­clude a host of other mea­sures crack­ing down on the coun­try’s ac­cess to the in­ter­na­tional bank­ing sys­tem and on North Korea’s ex­port of stat­ues, which have earned the coun­try hard cur­rency mostly through sales to African na­tions.

Bei­jing’s em­brace of the U.S.-drafted res­o­lu­tion sig­naled un­prece­dented co­op­er­a­tion from China, which is be­lieved to be the only coun­try buy­ing North Korean coal and has faced pres­sure for months from Wash­ing­ton to toughen its pos­ture to­ward the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Ja­panese Am­bas­sador Koro Bessho told re­porters in New York that the point of the sanc­tions was to force North Korea back to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

“We are in­tro­duc­ing the sanc­tions, not for the sake of in­tro­duc­ing sanc­tions but in or­der to change the course of [North Korean] pol­icy. If [North Korea] shows com­mit­ment to de­nu­cle­ariza­tion, se­ri­ous com­mit­ment and con­crete ac­tions, we are cer­tainly ready to come into di­a­logue with them and try to solve the sit­u­a­tion,” Mr. Bessho said.

But the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s suc­cess in se­cur­ing China’s sup­port risks be­ing over­shad­owed by an en­tirely sep­a­rate de­vel­op­ment on the Korean Penin­sula: the dam­ag­ing in­flu­ence-ped­dling scan­dal fac­ing South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye, Wash­ing­ton’s clos­est ally against Py­ongyang.

Ms. Park, South Korea’s first fe­male pres­i­dent and the daugh­ter of as­sas­si­nated for­mer leader Park Chung-hee, is fight­ing to save her job af­ter pros­e­cu­tors con­tended she col­luded with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, to en­able her to wield im­proper sway in govern­ment af­fairs and in fundrais­ing by two foun­da­tions set up to back the pres­i­dent’s ini­tia­tives.

In a dra­matic move Wed­nes­day, South Korean op­po­si­tion par­ties vowed to press ahead with an at­tempt to im­peach Ms. Park, a day af­ter she an­nounced that she may be will­ing to re­sign in ex­change for a vaguely de­fined set of con­di­tions.

Ms. Park on Tues­day asked law­mak­ers to de­cide how and when she should quit. But by Wed­nes­day, op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers had dis­missed the re­quest as a back­door ploy to slow the po­lit­i­cal mo­men­tum and avoid im­peach­ment.

The lead­ers of the three op­po­si­tion par­ties, which hold enough seats in the sin­gle-cham­ber South Korean par­lia­ment to ini­ti­ate an im­peach­ment mo­tion, said they would not ne­go­ti­ate. The head of one of the par­ties — the Peo­ple’s Party — said a mo­tion could be put to a vote as early as Friday.

The fast-paced de­vel­op­ments of the scan­dal have put nerves on edge in Wash­ing­ton, where law­mak­ers from both sides of the aisle have praised Ms. Park’s hard line against North Korea.

Par­al­lel to the grow­ing in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic sanc­tions trig­gered by Py­ongyang’s nu­clear tests, the Park ad­min­is­tra­tion has em­braced a sig­nif­i­cant up­grade in the decades-old Wash­ing­ton-Seoul mil­i­tary al­liance: ac­cept­ing the de­ploy­ment of a mis­sile de­fense sys­tem de­spite harsh ob­jec­tions from Py­ongyang and Bei­jing.

Anger over de­fense sys­tem

The Ter­mi­nal High-Al­ti­tude Area De­fense sys­tem has irked China, which is seen to wield grow­ing in­flu­ence in South Korea amid ex­pand­ing trade ties be­tween Bei­jing and Seoul. Some an­a­lysts have raised con­cern that the scan­dal sur­round­ing Ms. Park could trig­ger a po­lit­i­cal back­lash from South Korean op­po­si­tion par­ties to the U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence in the na­tion.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion down­played such con­cerns Tues­day. White House spokesman Josh Earnest told re­porters that “the se­cu­rity re­la­tion­ship be­tween [South Korea] and the United States is sub­stan­tial and so im­por­tant that it su­per­sedes po­lit­i­cal re­la­tion­ships.”

“Ob­vi­ously, there is a rather com­pli­cated, shall we say, do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in­side of South Korea right now,” Mr. Earnest said. “That is a sit­u­a­tion that the South Korean peo­ple will grap­ple with, but the on­go­ing al­liance be­tween our two coun­tries is as strong and durable as ever.”

The White House on Wed­nes­day cir­cu­lated a state­ment tout­ing the new U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil ac­tion against North Korea, say­ing the world body had ef­fec­tively strength­ened and ex­panded “sec­toral sanc­tions on ex­ports [that Py­ongyang] can use to raise hard cur­rency that can be used to fund its nu­clear and bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grams.”

The coun­cil’s new res­o­lu­tion aims to re­duce North Korea’s coal ex­ports — the coun­try’s big­gest ex­port item — by about 60 per­cent, with an an­nual sales cap of $400.9 mil­lion.

U.S. Am­bas­sador to the U.N. Sa­man­tha Power said the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­al­is­tic about the lim­its of the sanc­tions’ im­pact. “No res­o­lu­tion in New York will likely, tomorrow, per­suade Py­ongyang to cease its re­lent­less pur­suit of nu­clear weapons,” she said. “But this res­o­lu­tion im­poses un­prece­dented costs on the [North Korean] regime for de­fy­ing this coun­cil’s de­mands.”

Mr. Earnest said Wed­nes­day that the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil’s unan­i­mous vote sent a clear sig­nal that it’s not just al­lies like South Korea and Ja­pan that fear North Korea’s nu­clear am­bi­tions. He said the sanc­tions were im­posed as a re­sult of weeks of “hard-nosed diplo­macy” that also in­volved Rus­sia and China.

“Putting in place this hard cap [on coal ex­ports] and clos­ing loop­holes they had pre­vi­ously ex­ploited to get around pre­vi­ous sanc­tions is a sub­stan­tial de­vel­op­ment,” Mr. Earnest said.

It re­mains to be seen whether China, con­sid­ered the North’s only real ally, will im­ple­ment the sanc­tions. Over the first 10 months of 2016, the Chi­nese have im­ported 18.6 mil­lion tons of coal from North Korea, up al­most 13 per­cent from last year, ac­cord­ing to Reuters. Such im­ports will face a sig­nif­i­cant cut un­der the sanc­tions.

While Chi­nese of­fi­cials have op­posed North Korea’s re­cent nu­clear tests, Am­bas­sador Liu Jieyi seemed to sug­gest Wed­nes­day that Bei­jing re­mains wary about fol­low­ing Wash­ing­ton’s lead to­ward con­tain­ing Py­ongyang.

Mr. Liu ac­cused the U.S. and South Korea of in­ten­si­fy­ing con­fronta­tion with North Korea through in­creased mil­i­tary ex­er­cises and pos­tur­ing. He specif­i­cally de­scribed the THAAD de­ploy­ment as “nei­ther con­ducive to the re­al­iza­tion of the goal of de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula nor help­ful to the main­te­nance of peace and sta­bil­ity on the penin­sula.”

North Korea has been un­der U.N. sanc­tions since 2006 as a re­sult of its test­ing of nu­clear de­vices and bal­lis­tic mis­siles. U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon told the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil on Wed­nes­day that “sanc­tions are only as ef­fec­tive as their im­ple­men­ta­tion.”

“It is in­cum­bent on all mem­ber states of the United Na­tions to make every ef­fort to en­sure that these sanc­tions are fully im­ple­mented,” Mr. Ban said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

At the United Na­tions on Wed­nes­day, the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil voted to fur­ther tighten sanc­tions against North Korea in re­sponse to its fifth and largest nu­clear test yet.

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