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2009/09/10 11:05 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 71 (September 10, 2009)


Progress and Effects of the International Community's Sanctions on N.K.

By Moon Soon-bo (Senior Research Fellow, the Sejong Institute, Songnam, South Korea)

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, adopted on June 12, contains three essential elements: inspection of suspicious cargo, an embargo on arms exports, and financial/economic sanctions. Until now, the international community has visibly enforced the resolution, and thus far, it has been more effective than expected.

   The United States, which is the leading advocate for sanctions against North Korea, immediately enforced the resolution after its adoption. In fact, suspecting a ship to be carrying items related to creating weapons of mass destruction in early June, the U.S. began pursuit of a North Korean cargo ship, the Kangnam 1. As a result, the ship, based in Nampho harbor, was forced to return to North Korea at the end of the month.

   It was widely assumed that the Kangnam 1 was heading to Myanmar via Singapore to exchange weapons for food. However, during this incident, Myanmar's central government also made clear that it would actively support the international community's efforts by denying the North Korean cargo ship's entry into Myanmar.

   Playing an omnidirectional role in pressuring North Korea, the U.S. is also carrying out sanctions against North Korea that are unrelated to the resolution. In fact, there have been calls mainly from the U.S. Congress to redesignate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.

   The South Korean government has also worked tirelessly for the effective enforcement of the U.N. resolution. It created an interagency organization through which it publishes written reports and takes action regarding North Korean sanctions. In addition, on July 16, the Korean government actually added two more items to the list of 10, which included five organizations and five individuals designated by the U.N. as up for sanctions.

   What may be most encouraging, however, is that both China and Russia are supporting the resolution. After North Korea's first nuclear test, both countries displayed unchanged behavior and showed continued sympathy toward North Korea. However, to ensure the resolution remains strong, cooperation with China appears especially crucial. China accounts for over 70 percent of North Korea's foreign trade; thus, in order to achieve the full effect of economic sanctions, China's participation is cardinal.

   After North Korea's second nuclear test, China appears to be looking at North Korea's audacious displays in a different light. It seems that the past failures within the six-party framework and North Korea's unwillingness to accept China's advice and recommendations have accumulated, causing China's deep displeasure toward North Korea. In fact, China's recent actions and sanctions against North Korea seem to support this idea.

   First, in late July, Chinese authorities confiscated a strategic metal, vanadium, which the North Koreans were trying to smuggle through Dandong. Second, a Chinese steel company that was collaborating with a North Korean company on a business project in North Korea abruptly requested a suspension of construction in late July. Last, between July 27-28, at a meeting held to discuss economic strategies in Washington D.C., the Chinese government threatened the North Koreans by encouraging the U.S. to strictly enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874.
Overall, listening to the demands of the international community, the Chinese, who used to fully support North Korea, appear to have changed their position. Accordingly, this change has had a dramatic effect on the strength of sanctions placed on North Korea.

   Along with China, Russia shares a similar stance with the international community regarding sanctions on North Korea. On July 21, while in Moscow, South Korean Minister of Defense Lee Sang-hee met Russian Minister of Defense Anatoliy Serdyukov and agreed that North Korea's nuclear program is a clear violation of Resolution 1874 and a violation of the trust of the countries involved in the six-party talks. In the meeting, Serdyukov supported the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and urged North Korea to comply with the resolution.

   Other governments, including India and Hong Kong, are also putting forth sincere efforts to enforce the sanctions. On Aug. 7, after six hours of pursuit off the coast of India, the Indian Coast Guard apprehended the North Korean vessel Musan for docking without permission. To enforce Resolution 1874, the Hong Kong government is also preparing to enact a new bill in addition to investigating two North Korean companies currently involved with a North Korean investment fund, called the Choson Fund, to determine whether or not they are in violation of Hong Kong laws in relation to Resolution 1874.

   The sanctions carried out by North Korea's main trading partners are also worth noting. The 27 European Union (EU) nations have agreed to observe Resolution 1874. On July 27 at a conference of foreign ministers of EU nations, the 27 countries agreed that the EU would observe Resolution 1874 and strengthen sanctions against North Korea. At the conference, the foreign ministers created a list that clearly stated the EU would strengthen its inspections of North Korean cargo ships. They also listed items banned from export, people prohibited from entering the EU, and North Korean assets that would be frozen.

   Overall, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874 has been enforced effectively by the international community. As a result, North Korea's financial situation has become grimmer and it has fallen into further isolation from the international community.