The UN Security Council on Monday adopted Resolution 2375 to impose new sanctions on North Korea in response to its sixth nuclear test.
But the level of sanctions backed away from a tough US draft resolution. The new resolution is short of stopping North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s reckless rush to develop nuclear-tipped intercontinental missiles.
Nevertheless, it is not without accomplishments.
For the first time, it has included restrictions on North Korean imports of petroleum products, regarded as a sanctuary when it comes to UN sanctions on the country. The UN has secured a bridgehead to pressure Kim’s regime.
It has banned exports of textiles -- cash-strapped North Korea’s second-largest source of hard currency, behind ores -- and new overseas employment of North Korean laborers.
The resolution is expected to block a total of $1 billion from flowing into Kim’s regime.
But a ban on crude oil supplies, regarded as the most effective sanction, dropped out of the draft resolution. A freeze on the assets of and travel ban on Kim and his sister were also excluded. China and Russia put the brakes on them.
North Korea is estimated to receive 4 million barrels of crude oil and 4.5 million barrels of refined oil products from China and Russia annually.
The new resolution has set a ceiling of 2 million barrels on refined oil products, while leaving crude oil supply intact. This would not be enough to threaten Kim’s regime.
Eight resolutions against the North had been adopted before the latest one, but the communist state kept testing nuclear weapons and missiles without paying heed to them.
Resolution 2375 was adopted unanimously, but it is expected to have little effect in inducing changes in North Korea. There is a high chance that the North and the UN Security Council will continue the vicious circle of provocations and sanctions for some time.
However, one must not expect too much at the first attempt.
It is not a bad option to raise the level of sanctions in later stages depending on how the North behaves.
The sanctions omitted this time could be used if the North makes further provocations. If accumulated, light punishments will certainly weaken the North’s endurance.
Now is the time for all UN members to carry out the resolution sincerely.
The thing is there must not be loopholes. All nine UN sanctions including the latest one must be implemented fully to make the North Korean regime feel pain for its provocations.
Eyes cannot help but be focused on China and Russia, which have been negative toward sanctions.
Particularly, China’s sincere implementation of the resolution is essential. China takes up more than 90 percent of North Korea’s external trade.
It is hard to deny that China has been suspected of easing sanctions as per changes in the international situation or its own strategic needs, even though it said on the surface that it was implementing the resolutions strictly.
Judging from the past, smuggling through backdoors may happen. The North has sought to evade sanctions through illegal and secret trade. It will continue to try.
Adopting a resolution on sanctions is important, but tight monitoring to ensure they can achieve the desired outcome must be followed up.
The South Korean government cannot just rely on the good intentions of China and Russia. Together with the international community, it should pay attention to whether they are carrying out their commitments under the resolution and cracking down on frontier smuggling thoroughly.
At the moment, maximum pressure is the only way to push the North to the negotiating table.
South Korea and the US should make efforts to isolate the North further by persuading other countries to cut or downgrade their ties with Kim’s regime.
Separately from diplomatic endeavors, the government must go all out to secure strong weapons systems to guarantee effective deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear threats.