Last week, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley circulated a draft of proposed sanctions on North Korea in response to their recent nuclear test. The proposal included targeting the personal finances of Kim Jong Un and authorizing the use of military force to inspect North Korean owned ships. I stated at the time that those sanctions had zero chance of passing and wondered if the administration might be purposely setting up a failed vote in order to create the public image of Russia and China–both of whom were sure to veto the resolution–siding with North Korea.
Today, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favor of a sanctions package drafted by the US, but the sanctions were watered down a bit to gain passage.
What didn’t happen: No use of force to inspect North Korean ships and no freezing of Kim Jong Un’s bank accounts.
The resolution asks countries around the world to inspect ships going in and out of North Korea’s ports (a provision put in place by the Security Council in 2009) but does not authorize the use of force for ships that do not comply, as the Trump administration had originally proposed. The resolution also requires those inspections to be done with the consent of the countries where the ships are registered, which opens the door to violations. Under the latest resolution, those ships could face penalties, but the original language proposed by the United States went much further, empowering countries to interdict ships suspected of carrying weapons material or fuel into North Korea and to use “all necessary measures” — diplomatic code for the deployment of military force — to enforce compliance.
Nor does the resolution impose a travel ban or asset freeze on the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, as the original American draft had set out. And the new measure adds a caveat to the original language that would have banned the import of North Korean laborers altogether, saying that countries should not provide work authorization papers unless necessary for humanitarian assistance or denuclearization. The weakened language was a nod to Russia, a big user of imported North Korean labor.
The new draft does ban textile exports from North Korea, prohibits the sale of natural gas to North Korea and sets a cap on refined petroleum sales to the country of two million barrels per year. That would shave off roughly 10 percent of what North Korea currently gets from China, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted the strongest sanctions ever against North Korea: #15-0 pic.twitter.com/0tNWAZRoSr
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) September 11, 2017
Read the blow-by-blow of what the resolution does here.
The New York Times being what it is couldn’t resist making ridiculous statements and crediting Obama. For instance, on the one hand:
China had long worried that an oil cutoff altogether would lead to North Korea’s collapse.
This would be the China that is actually familiar with North Korea’s economy. On the other hand:
A recent analysis by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies suggested that an oil embargo would not have much impact in the long run anyway; Pyongyang, the analysis said, could replace oil with liquefied coal.
This would be a western think tank with no actual lines of contact into the North Korean government. These are not opposing opinions, one is grounded in fact and the other is fabulism.
And, of course, this is just like Obama did it:
That is exactly the combination of actions that was used by the Obama administration to drive Iran into negotiations over its nuclear activities for what became the 2015 deal that Mr. Trump has often denounced as a giveaway.
What we have is a small scale ratcheting up of pressure on North Korea. As most North Korean ships carry Liberian or Panamanian registrations, we can anticipate that some diplomatic pressure will be brought to bear on those governments to pay more attention to those ships and to allow them to be inspected when asked. Cutting foreign exchange received from coolie laborers and clothing manufacturing will sting. And I have to admit to being impressed that any additional sanctions were able to come out of the Security Council and that it happened so fast.
US didn't get everything it wanted but res. passed much faster this time. Caveats aside this is positive. Now to see if China enforces it… pic.twitter.com/BSgW9llHL0
— Kent Boydston (@KentBoydston) September 11, 2017
As I’ve said several times, the real action here is going to be unilateral. The US is already putting pressure on minor states who trade with North Korea. That pressure is going to increase and it is going to start hitting Russian and Chinese entities.
The next question is how does North Korea react to this. If past behavior is any indicator, Kim will feel a need to do something to strike back at the source of these sanctions and the possibility of him miscalculating the situation is immense.