The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) imposed a new set of sanctions on North Korea on August 5th, responding to the growing tension surrounding Pyongyang’s recent testing of ballistic missiles. In a unanimous decision, Resolution 2371 passed through the Security Council with 15 votes in favour. These sanctions involve a significant export ban on iron, lead, coal and seafood from North Korea, to the tune of USD $1 billion – the move targeting approximately one-third of the country’s annual export revenue.
The sanctions come in light of Pyongyang’s testing of two Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) at the end of last month – the 14th of its kind this year alone. These tests, adding to the list of missile tests being conducted by North Korea in recent months, contribute to the growing concerns of the international community in regards to North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, and nature of its conduct with said capabilities. This is particularly pertinent considering the range of these missiles, with those of last month reportedly landing in Japanese waters – adding to concerns of Pyongyang’s ability to send missiles to targets even further abroad.
Aside from implementing significant restrictions on North Korean exports, Resolution 2371 also banned the employment of any further labourers working abroad, who could be used to generate export earnings, and placed restrictions on the chartering of certain vessels of the country.
Speaking at the UNSC, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley noted in her address that the “North Korean threat has not left us, it is growing more dangerous… [and] further action is required.” As such, Haley also noted in a statement that the sanctions constitute “the strongest… ever imposed in response to a ballistic missile test.”
Such sanctions are designed to further strain the cash-deprived nation in order to deter Pyongyang from pouring more resources into the development of missiles and nuclear capabilities. The risk associated with punishing North Korea economically, however, is that the country is already resource-scare and has high levels of food insecurity affecting significant portions of the civilian population. While sanctions are intended to deter North Korea from pursuing its nuclear weapons capabilities, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia spoke with caution to the UNSC, highlighting that they “mustn’t be used for economic asphyxiation of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], nor to deliberately worsen the humanitarian situation.”
These recent sanctions add what has become a growing list of UNSC resolutions in relation to Pyongyang’s use and development of nuclear capabilities and missiles, which have largely been ignored by North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un. Time will only tell if the additional sanctions from earlier this month are enough to deter Pyongyang from continuing to display its missile capabilities, particularly in light of the pressure felt by the country considering the close US military presence across the border in South Korea. What is clear is that the sanctions will be sure to place greater economic strain on the country, surely adding to the growing tensions already surrounding the issue of North Korea and its missile and nuclear capacity.
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