UN Security Council unanimously adopts harshest-ever sanctions on North Korea

March 2, 2016

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Yonhap) — The U.N. Security Council adopted the harshest-ever sanctions on North Korea on Wednesday, punishing Pyongyang for its defiant nuclear and missile tests and seeking to put curbs on the weapons programs through what could amount to a land, sea and air blockade designed to dry up key revenue sources.

The 15-member council unanimously adopted Resolution 2270, significantly tightening the screws on the communist nation that sparked global outrage with its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and its long-range missile launch on Feb. 7 in violation of U.N. bans.

The new sanctions, the toughest ever to be imposed on Pyongyang, require mandatory inspection of all cargo going in and out of the North, regardless of whether by land, sea or air, while banning its exports of coal, iron and other mineral resources, a key source of hard currency that accounts for nearly half of the country’s total exports.

It also prohibits all small arms and other conventional weapons from being sold to the North, bans jet and rocket fuel supplies to the country, grounds North Korean flights suspected of carrying contraband and denies vessels carrying illicit items access to ports.

It is the fifth Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on the North.

The previous resolutions were adopted after the North’s first nuclear test in 2006, its second nuclear test in 2009, its long-range rocket launch in late 2012 and its third nuclear test in early 2013.

U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the resolution.

“This resolution levies strong new sanctions aimed at halting Pyongyang’s efforts to advance its weapons of mass destruction programs,” Obama said in a statement. “I have consistently said that the DPRK would face consequences for its actions, and I welcome this resolution as a firm, united, and appropriate response by the international community to the DPRK’s recent provocations that flagrantly violated multiple Security Council resolutions.”

Through the resolution, the international community sent “a simple message: North Korea must abandon these dangerous programs and choose a better path for its people,” Obama said.

South Korea said the resolution is “an expression of the international community’s stern will that the North’s habitual nuclear tests and missile launches will no longer be tolerated.”

“We will further strengthen international cooperation so that North Korea will abandon its nuclear program in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner,” Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam said in a statement, renewing calls for the North to take the path toward denuclearization.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the new sanctions as said saying it sent a clear message the communist nation should comply with its denuclearization obligations.

“Today’s unanimous action by the Security Council has sent a clear message that the DPRK must return to full compliance with its international obligations. The secretary-general urges the DPRK to abide by the resolution and calls upon all member states to ensure its implementation,” it said.

Shortly after the resolution’s adoption, the U.S. announced unilateral sanctions on the North, blacklisting 11 individuals and five entities for their alleged roles in nuclear and weapons proliferation, including Pyongyang’s all-powerful National Defense Commission.

The list also included Hwang Pyong-so, director of the general political bureau of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), who is considered one of the closest aides to leader Kim Jong-un; Defense Minister Pak Yong-sik, and Ri Yong-mu, a vice chairman of the defense commission.

Tuesday’s resolution came 56 days after the North’s nuclear test.

After the test, the Security Council pledged to adopt significant sanctions, but follow-up negotiations between the United States and China made slow headway as Beijing balked at imposing harsh measures on Pyongyang.

China is the main provider of food and fuel aid to the impoverished North, but fears that pushing Pyongyang too hard could lead to its collapse, instability on its border and the ultimate emergence of a pro-U.S. nation right at its door step.

Amid the deadlock, the North flouted the Security Council again with the missile launch that succeeded in putting a satellite into orbit, once again demonstrating it is moving closer to developing nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The launch got the stalled negotiations moving again, and China and the U.S. reached a final agreement on a draft resolution last week. The text was then circulated among the other countries of the 15-member council and was adopted with some minor modifications at Russia’s request.

Experts said there is no question that the resolution, if stringently enforced, would hit the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hard. But the key to its implementation lies with China, which accounts for nearly 90 percent of North Korea’s total trade and provides the impoverished nation with an economic lifeline, they said.

So far, U.N. Security Council resolutions have been unsuccessful in preventing the North from advancing its nuclear and missile programs, even though they could have slowed the programs’ progress, due in large part to China’s reluctance to press Pyongyang.

Beijing has long been accused of blunting North Korea sanctions by providing assistance through backdoors.

Undeterred by U.N. sanctions, Pyongyang kept forging ahead to a point where it claimed the January test involved a hydrogen bomb, a much more powerful and sophisticated nuclear weapon than conventional atomic bombs, even though the U.S. say its analysis is not consistent with Pyongyang’s claims.

Analysts have warned that it is only a matter of time until the North develops nuclear-tipped missiles. Some experts have recently warned that the communist nation’s nuclear arsenal could expand to as many as 100 bombs by 2020.

The six-party talks aimed at resolving the North Korean standoff have been stalled since late 2008. North Korea demands the unconditional resumption of negotiations, while the U.S. says that Pyongyang must first take concrete steps demonstrating its denuclearization commitments.