The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a new set of draconian US-drafted sanctions on North Korea that will further strangle its energy supplies and tighten restrictions on smuggling and the use of North Korean workers overseas.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, claimed that the new sanctions, levied in response to Pyongyang’s November 29 ballistic missile test, went even further than sanctions passed in September that, at the time, were called the toughest yet.
“Today, we cut deeper,” Haley said. She said the UN had repeatedly offered Pyongyang a choice and repeatedly, in its continued missile tests, the regime had “chosen the path of isolation.”
Hailing the unity of the Security Council vote and referring to leader Kim Jong Un, Haley said that, “we will continue to match the Kim regime’s choice of aggressive action with actions of international sanctions.” North Korea, she said, is “this most tragic example of evil in the modern world.”
President Donald Trump chimed in with a tweet noting the vote. “The United Nations Security Council just voted 15-0 in favor of additional Sanctions on North Korea. The World wants Peace, not Death!” he said.
Resolution 2397 cuts exports of gasoline, diesel and other refined oil products by a total of 89 percent, Haley said.
The resolution also bans exports of industrial equipment, machinery, transportation vehicles and industrial metals to North Korea. It requires countries using North Korean laborers to send them back home no later than 24 months from the adoption of the resolution.
The resolution also requires countries to stop ships from illegally providing oil to North Korea through ship-to-ship transfers and prohibits them from smuggling North Korean coal and other prohibited commodities by sea.
Kelly Magsamen, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said the resolution represented another sign of international unity, but added a caution. While the restrictions on oil “will have an effect on the North Korean economy,” Magsamen said, “whether that produces the North Koreans at the negotiating table I think is an open question.”
The UN levied sanctions against North Korea in August and September. The US took unilateral steps against the country in July, August, September, October and November. And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has orchestrated a “peaceful pressure” campaign aimed at slowly cutting off Pyongyang’s diplomatic ties and financial resources, to force it to come to the negotiating table.
Against that backdrop, Trump has issued a steady stream of belligerent rhetoric, including a threat to “totally destroy” North Korea, raising fears of a military confrontation.
“At the end of the day, we are either going to have a negotiated outcome, or some sort of scenario where either the US decides to use force, or we are in a containment and deterrent scenario,” said Magsamen, a CNN security analyst now with the Center for American Progress.
Other countries at the Security Council meeting appealed for a greater effort to ease tensions and find a way to negotiate.
French Ambassador to the UN François Delattre said his country “welcomes the resumption of discussions, and the sooner the better,” adding that “we are still awaiting clear-cut signs from the regime.”
The representative from Uruguay called for negotiations “before it is too late.” South Korea’s ambassador stressed that, “sanctions are not an end in themselves, but an effective means to bring North Korea back on the track” for a peaceful diplomatic solution. “I sincerely hope the DPRK will take this message seriously,” Cho Tae-yul said, adding his hope that North Korea will “abandon the delusional idea of pursuing security” through nuclear weapons.
Some countries took apparent digs at the US. China called for an “immediate end” to what it characterized as overheated rhetoric, a call that could reference Trump just as easily as it does Kim. And China once again pushed its proposal that North Korea stop its missile tests in exchange for a US and South Korean agreement to stop all large-scale military exercises in the region.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN complained that the US had rushed the resolution through with several last-minute amendments and about the measures on North Korean workers. Russia officially has some 40,000 North Korean workers, and possibly more, many of whom work in construction and send significant amounts of money home.
The resolution’s requirement of a 24-month period for North Korean workers to return home “is the minimum acceptable period necessary to deal with the logistical aspects of the issue,” the Russian ambassador said, before adding one last criticism of the resolution.
“Unfortunately, our call to preclude a further escalation of tensions, to revise the policy of mutual intimidation, was not heeded,” he said.