North Korea’s firing of short-range missiles into the East Sea on Thursday clearly showed that the adoption of the U.N. Security Council resolution on the country’s nuclear and missile provocations means the start of a long, arduous task by the international community.
The firing of six missiles with a range of 100-150 kilometers, which came hours after the Security Council adopted the Resolution 2270, was an apparent show of force aimed at expressing the Pyongyang government’s defiance over the new U.N. sanctions.
The resolution, which overcame China’s initial reluctance and Russia’s last-minute intervention, calls for inspection of all cargo going into and coming out of the country, a ban on sale to the North of aviation and rocket fuel, and purchase of its minerals. It also includes financial sanctions and the blacklisting of 28 entities and individuals.
In addition, individual countries like the U.S., South Korea and Japan have been imposing unilateral sanctions. South Korea has already pulled its businesses out of the Gaeseong industrial park. The U.S. has blacklisted 11 individuals and five entities, including Hwang Pyong-so, the North’s No. 2 man, and the powerful National Defense Commission headed by Kim Jong-un. More countries like the EU, Britain and Germany are set to follow suit.
If these measures are enforced faithfully, they will certainly cause considerable pain to the Kim regime. South Korea, as the country under the greatest threat from the North’s nuclear weapons and missiles, should try to maximize the effects of the international sanctions.
What China and Russia will do is important in this regard. China accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s foreign trade and serves as the lifeline for the impoverished North by supplying food and fuel.
China’s leniency toward its client state has created loopholes in enforcing the past U.N. resolutions and other international endeavors to make the North give up its nuclear and missile ambitions. Given past experience, the fact that Chinese banks in the border areas with North Korea have banned remittance of U.S. dollars and Chinese yuan to the North should be taken as a good sign.
What’s important is for South Korea and the U.S. to make sure Beijing continues to abide by its pledge to implement the new U.N. sanctions faithfully. If necessary, the allies should play their cards like the one regarding the deployment in the South of the U.S. advanced missile defense system. Also important is to keep Russia from trying to use the North Korean issue to increase its leverage on the U.S. and China.
As seen in Thursday’s missile launches, North Korea is very likely to make further provocations -- be it a new nuclear test, a long-range missile launch, or military or terrorism attacks against South Korea. Kim Jong-un’s first reaction to the U.N. resolution was to order the military to get ready to launch nuclear strikes “at any time.”
North Korea has already threatened preemptive strikes against the Blue House and U.S. military bases in the South, and its saber-rattling will accelerate as the international sanctions are imposed one by one.
The possibility of the North eventually coming back to the negotiation table should not be excluded, but for now, the international community and South Korea should focus on deterring further military provocations. Consistent reinforcement of U.S. military power should be one such measure.