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[Editorial] Loopholes in sanctions

Beijing should not give Pyongyang a chance to escape punishment

The UN Security Council Wednesday condemned North Korea’s violations of its resolutions for firing ballistic missiles, but the North does not appear to be bothered.

It has violated them many times before and will likely do so again, at least, until it perfects its nuclear missile technology. Its leaders have been developing nukes at all costs.

The North is nearing its goal, which some experts forecast is a few years away. How could it come to this, as the UN has escalated sanctions each time it violated UN resolutions?

A recent UN report found North Korean companies targeted by its sanctions had imported missile parts from a firm based in China. The report also found a North Korean bank still running offices in Chinese cities despite UN sanctions.

On Wednesday the US fined Chinese cellphone equipment maker ZTE $1.2 billion for violating US export controls by selling goods to Iran and North Korea. It was the largest fine ever imposed in a US export control case. ZTE made 283 shipments of cell phone equipment to North Korea.

“Those who flout our economic sanctions and export controls will not go unpunished,” US Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross said.

Beijing should heed the report and the US action.

Whenever North Korea conducted atomic tests and launched ballistic missiles in violation of UN resolutions, China urged the North to stop provocations and the South and the US to stop pressuring the North.

The UN has strengthened its sanctions, and China has joined other UN members reluctantly in punishing the North. But its penalties were porous.

Beijing said last month it would suspend all coal imports from North Korea until the end of this year, but its coal imports from the North for this year were already close to the UN-imposed limit.

In November 2016, the UN set a cap on North Korea’s coal exports for 2017 at 7.5 million tons or $400 million, whichever is lower.

China’s Foreign Ministry stated last week that its North Korean coal imports were approaching the value limit for 2017.

In December 2016, Beijing exceeded the monthly UN-imposed cap on North Korea’s coal exports.

Exports to China are a major lifeline to the North. With earnings from exports, it has been able to conduct nuclear and missile tests.

North Korea is expected to produce about 50 atomic weapons by 2020. It will also likely field intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-based ballistic missiles soon.

China is to a large extent responsible for the North’s nuclear and missile development. If China had pressured North Korea tightly, nuclear and ICBM tests might have been almost impossible.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on North Korea to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korean military drills.

His proposal might be misleading.

The US and South Korea hold military training to defend against North Korean nukes and missiles. The North’s provocations are the root cause of all defense measures of South Korea, including hosting the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.

THAAD is being deployed to fend off missile attacks from North Korea, not to spy on China’s military or hamper its national interests as it argues.

According to a report by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a Seoul-based think tank, China conducts surveillance of US bases in Korea and Japan with OTH-B radars deployed near Beijing and on its eastern coast. The DWL-002 and YLC-20 Passive Radars it plans to field can detect objects 400 to 500 kilometers away. If installed at the eastern coast, the entire Korean Peninsula will be covered by these radars.

If the North stops nuclear and missile activities, THAAD will not be needed.

The most realistic solution to the North Korean provocations is watertight sanctions. Loopholes should have no place in them. China should not show Pyongyang a way to avoid punishment.