The United Nations Security Council on March 7 unanimously adopted a resolution that tightened sanctions against North Korea in response to its nuclear weapons test on Feb. 12, its third such test.
Opposing the resolution, the country has hardened its attitude to the point of threatening a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the United States. North Korea’s isolation will become deeper if it continues to ignore the international community’s warnings about its development of missiles and nuclear weapons.
Even China, the benefactor of North Korea, supported the sanctions. Pyongyang should take the meaning of the sanctions very seriously and return to the six-party talks, which are aimed at denuclearizing North Korea, as soon as possible.
The resolution expanded the existing sanctions, placing more severe constraints on North Korean banking in an attempt to deny Pyongyang cash transfers that would fund the development of missiles and nuclear weapons. It also calls for searching ships suspected of smuggling embargoed cargo to North Korea and for monitoring the activities of North Korean diplomats to prevent their taking part in prohibited transactions and cargo transportation.
Following the UNSC resolution, the U.S. has enforced its own sanctions, freezing the assets abroad of targeted North Korean company officials. Other countries are likely to adopt their own sanctions. What is different from the earlier U.N. sanctions against North Korea is that the new UNSC resolution obliges the U.N. member nations to take the actions specified by the resolution, instead of requesting them to do so.
Another critical difference is that China took part in writing the provisions of the resolution, indicating that Beijing feels that North Korea’s long-range rocket launch in December and nuclear test in February made its new leader, Mr. Xi Jinping, lose face and that China has lost patience with North Korea. Pyongyang should take these facts seriously and realize that it is on the brink of complete isolation in the international community.
Around the time of the adoption of the UNSC resolution, North Korea threatened to engulf Washington in a “sea of fire” by launching a first-strike nuclear attack. It said Monday that the armistice agreement that in 1953 brought an end to hostilities in the Korean War has been scrapped. It also cut off the North-South hotline last week and abrogated the 1991 nonaggression pact with South Korea on Monday. Pyongyang should realize that such bellicose behavior will only bring greater hardship to North Korea.
It should resume the six-party talks with the U.S., China, Japan, South Korea and Russia before it is completely hamstrung by the sanctions and international criticism.
The international community, in the meantime, should make sure that the sanctions will be tight and effective. China’s role is especially important since it accounts for more than 80 percent of North Korea’s total trade.
Full implementation of the UNSC resolution by China will deliver a strong message to North Korea. Beijing should refrain from any actions that will weaken the sanctions.