New North Korea Sanctions ‘Strongest Measures Ever’ – But Watered Down to Placate China, Russia

By Patrick Goodenough | September 11, 2017 | 10:31pm EDT
The U.N. Security Council on September 11, 2017 unanimously adopts resolution 2375, imposing sanctions on North Korea over its sixth nuclear test. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

( – The U.N. Security Council on Monday unanimously adopted its second sanctions resolution against North Korea in five weeks, but Russian and Chinese objections diluted a measure which the Trump administration had wanted to include a total oil embargo.

In order to avoid vetoes by the two, U.S. diplomats agreed to an annual cap of two million barrels of gasoline, diesel, and fuel oil shipments to Pyongyang, a freeze on its annual crude oil imports at the current level of four million barrels, and a ban on natural gas imports.

Although this amounts to a reduction of more than 55 percent in refined petroleum products, it falls far short of the complete cutoff originally sought by the U.S. after last weekend’s test of what the regime described as a ballistic missile-mountable hydrogen bomb.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has called oil “the lifeblood of North Korea’s effort to build and deliver a nuclear weapon.”

An earlier determination to target Kim Jong-un personally with a travel ban and freeze on overseas assets also ran into opposition, although the adopted measure, Security Council resolution 2375, does target key organs of the regime including the Kim Jong-un-chaired Central Military Commission and the department responsible for propaganda.

Among the strongest measures in the adopted resolution is a ban on all North Korean textile exports. Textiles account for the biggest sector in the country’s economy not previously restricted by the Security Council; taken together with earlier bans on coal, iron and seafood this measure means that more than 90 percent of the regime’s publicly-reported exports last year are now banned.

Resolution 2375 also strengthens measures – first contained in a Security Council resolution adopted in 2009 – to stop and search ships at sea suspected of carrying prohibited cargoes to North Korea. Again, the adopted language is weaker than that proposed by the U.S., which had wanted to empower countries to use “all necessary measures” in interdicting suspected fuel and weapons shipments.

And it bans joint business ventures with North Korea – although exempts existing hydroelectric, rail and port and coal arrangements with China and Russia.

Despite the compromises required to avoid a veto by the two permanent members, Haley after the vote underlined that the sanctions adopted Monday “are by far the strongest measures ever imposed on North Korea.”

“Previous efforts to bring North Korea to the negotiating table have failed. They have repeatedly walked back every commitment they have made,” she said. “Today, the Security Council has acted in a different way. Today, we are attempting to take the future of the North Korean nuclear program out of the hands of its outlaw regime.”

“We are done trying to prod the regime to do the right thing. We are now acting to stop it from having the ability to continue doing the wrong thing.”

The previous Security Council resolution was adopted on August 5, in response to two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests in July. Monday’s one came after the regime’s nuclear test on September 3, its sixth since 2006 but evidently the most powerful yet.

Haley ended her statement with a conciliatory tone, saying that the U.S. takes no pleasure in further strengthening the sanctions and was not “looking for war.”

“The North Korean regime has not yet passed the point of no return,” she said. “If it agrees to stop its nuclear program, it can reclaim its future. If it proves it can live in peace, the world will live in peace with it.

“On the other hand, if North Korea continues its dangerous path, we will continue with further pressure,” Haley concluded. “The choice is theirs.”

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