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[Editorial] Stringent sanctions

New resolution packs a punch against North Korea

The U.N. Security Council’s draft sanctions resolution against North Korea has been unveiled. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power outlined key points of the draft to reporters Thursday before it is formally adopted.

The latest resolution contains “the strongest set of sanctions imposed by the Security Council in more than two decades.” The measures are geared toward severely restricting North Korea’s access to the funding, technology and know-how needed to advance its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs

Many of the proposed sanctions have not been included in the previous resolutions. For instance, for the first time, all cargo going in and out of North Korea would be subjected to mandatory inspection. The North’s vessels suspected of carrying illicit items would also be denied access to ports.

If implemented as planned, these measures would have the effect of a naval blockade.

The sanctions also propose to ban imports of coal, iron and other mineral from North Korea. This measure, if adopted, could significantly reduce North Korea’s hard currency earnings. China’s imports of coal from North Korea amounted to $1.05 billion last year, accounting for more than 42 percent of their bilateral trade.

The Global Times, a paper published by the Chinese Communist Party, recently reported that Chinese companies would be banned from importing coal from the North from March 1.

At the same time, the sanctions would tighten restrictions on North Korean banks’ access to the international financial system.

Regarding this matter, a Korean newspaper recently reported that the Dandong branch of China’s biggest bank Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has frozen accounts belonging to North Koreans.

The ICBC office in the Chinese border city had reportedly suspended all foreign currency transactions involving accounts with North Korean names. If the U.N. resolution is adopted, other foreign banks are expected to follow suit.

The package also calls for blacklisting 17 North Korean individuals and 12 entities, including the three key North Korean state agencies overseeing Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs -- the General Reconnaissance Bureau, the Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry and the National Aerospace Development Administration.

The General Reconnaissance Bureau is in charge of clandestine operations and intelligence collection. The mastermind of the 2010 destruction of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan, the secretive military unit was blacklisted by the United States for its suspected role in the 2014 cyberattacks on Sony Pictures.

Other proposed sanctions include a ban on jet and rocket fuel supplies to the North. This measure would have little impact on ordinary North Koreans but are expected to deal a serious blow to North Korea’s air force and missile tests.

Now, the Seoul government needs to step up diplomatic efforts to ensure that these sanctions are implemented as planned. However tough the new sanctions may be, they would be useless if not implemented properly.

Whether the proposed sanctions inflict real pain on North Korea or not depends much on how far China would go in implementing them. Seoul and Washington need to put pressure on Beijing to enforce the sanctions in earnest.