On Monday, August 7th, North Korea declared that the new sanctions, which were unanimously passed by the United Nations on Saturday, were a “wanton infringement upon the sovereignty of the country” and accused the United States of “trying to drive the situation of the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war,” according to North Korea’s state-run news agency, the Korean Central News Agency. The KCNA also reported that the missile launches by North Korea have been a “stern warning to the US” and the U.S. should not believe “that its land is safe across the ocean.” At the ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila on Monday, where U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was also in attendance, North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho reaffirmed the warnings and said in a statement, “We will, under no circumstances, put the nukes and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table.”
The 15-member UN Security Council including North Korea’s neighbours, China and Russia, backed new sanctions attempting to limit North Korea’s ability to earn revenue worldwide. The sanctions have banned countries from importing key North Korean exports of coal, seafood, iron, and lead. While the sanctions did not include North Korea exporting oil, U.S. officials believe Pyongyang’s $3 billion export revenues will be cut by one-third. The new sanctions also prohibit countries from hiring new workers from North Korea and creating new joint ventures or new investment in pre-existing joint ventures. The implementation of these restrictions hopes to pressure North Korea into denuclearizing. However, many experts are skeptical as to whether the sanctions will be effective or even impair the North Korean economy. The sanctions will depend on the enforcement from China and Russia. Although neither country has a strong track record on imposing sanctions in the past, China agreed to suspend all coal imports from North Korea in February and has appeared to maintain that agreement.
The new sanctions came in direct response to two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) fired by North Korea during tests on July 4th and July 28th, which according to weapons experts have the ability of hitting the United States, although the missiles were fired into the waters of the Korean Peninsula. However, the missile tests have escalated tensions in the region and were strongly condemned by the U.S., Japan, and South Korea. North Korea still defends that its nuclear missile weapon program remains a method of self-defense.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “Sanctions are needed, but they are not the ultimate goal. The goal is to pull the nuclear issue back to the negotiating table and seek a way through talks until denuclearization and peace are achieved on the peninsula. After the resolution is passed, the situation on the peninsula will enter a very critical phase. We urge all parties to judge and act with responsibility in order to prevent tensions from escalating.”
Tillerson responded, saying, “The best signal that North Korea could give us that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches…this isn’t about a specific number of days or weeks. This is really about the spirit of these talks and when they can demonstrate they’re ready to sit with the spirit of finding a way forward in these talks by no longer conducting these missile tests. It is all about how we see their attitude toward approaching a dialogue with us.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has expressed similar desire to have an open dialogue with North Korea and improving relations in the Peninsula, but only until North Korea abandons its nuclear plans.
As tensions continued to escalate, Trump said on Tuesday at his golf club in New Jersey that “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
While other countries have expressed the desire for peaceful solutions to push North Korea into ending its nuclear missile tests, Trump’s statement is not adding to an effective solution, but rather tearing it down. It is unclear how far North Korea’s nuclear missiles and weapons have actually advanced; however, they have the available technology and continue to threaten its power to the U.S. and its allies. Dr. Nilsson-Wright, Senior Research Fellow for North-East Asia at Chatham House, said, “There needs to be a mixture of pressure and dialogue.” It is very important that the U.S. and other countries surrounding North Korea especially China work together effectively and put pressure on North Korea to stop the current situation from escalating into a larger conflict or war.
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