News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.N. Security Council Approves Weakened Sanctions Against North Korea


The screws on North Korea are tightening. The United Nations voted unanimously last night to approve sanctions against the Kim regime to try and hold back its nuclear ambitions. The resolution wasn't as strong as the Trump administration would have liked it to be and was watered down in an effort to get support from the Chinese and the Russians. Colum Lynch of Foreign Policy is on the line to talk more about this. Hey, Colum.

COLUM LYNCH: Hi, Rachel. How are you?

MARTIN: I am well. What do these new sanctions do?

LYNCH: So essentially what they do is they - it's sort of an incremental increase in the whole you know, sort of series of sanctions have been put on the path, so they would essentially bar North Korea from exporting textiles. This is an industry that's worth about $700 million a year, so they will take a big hit there. Also it puts a cap on the amount of refined oil, gas products, other petroleum products that they can import to about 2 million barrels. And the Americans say that in the past they have imported up to 4.5 million. So it falls short of much steeper sanctions that they had intended to impose, which would have completely cut off all oil imports into North Korea. So not as tough as the Americans had hoped but certainly, you know, another sort of effort to tighten the screws, as you say, on the regime.

MARTIN: And, I mean, China is framing itself as the one that's taking the hit here because they're the ones who take an economic ding when this trade relationship is changed, diminished.

LYNCH: Right. I mean, China is taking a - well, I mean, it's not a major part of their economy, so, you know, they probably won't feel it economically. Certainly, you know, traders in the region will feel it. But essentially, you know, China is responsible for over 90 percent of trade with North Korea. Any sanctions has an impact on the relationship with China. I mean, what we see recently is that as China has been, you know, going along with these sanctions and imposing them, I mean, they recently - earlier in the year they cut - they ended their imports of - their imports of coal from North Korea. It was a huge source of revenue for the North Koreans.

But other countries have picked up the slack. Some coal has been exported through Russia. Countries like Malaysia and Vietnam have also imported significant amounts of coal. So what you see - it's like this sort of, you know, game of Whack-a-Mole. You know, when the Security Council imposes sanctions on certain parts of North Korea's economy, certain channels of trade might close up for a while, but they just open up somewhere else.

MARTIN: So then what do you do? I mean, if North Korea can find ways to circumvent these sanctions, if not everyone, if not every national actor is on board, how enforceable - what difference do these sanctions make?

LYNCH: Well, all they do is they raise the cost of defying the Security Council and the rest of the international community. So, I mean, there broadly is not an expectation, you know, among experts, among, you know, U.N. diplomats - and including the Americans - that this new round of sanctions is going to convince North Korea to do what they want it to do, which is to stop advancing their ballistic missile technology - which, you know, they have recently been able to produce intercontinental ballistic missiles - and also to get them to stop developing and testing nuclear weapons, which they have done in the last, you know, in the last several days. And so I think that, you know, that policymakers are in a way stuck. They don't see much of a way out of this. I mean, they're - and the only kind of policy tool they have is increasing sanctions, and they're a bit stuck.

MARTIN: So we're - you're telling me we're going to likely see more incremental attempts at further sanctions. That's the only step left. It's the only step...

LYNCH: Right. I mean, the U.S. is not entertaining any sort of negotiations with the North Koreans. So, I mean, essentially what they're doing is - the strategy they have is to increase the pressure. I mean, maybe at some point, you know, it has an impact, but it's hard to imagine. They've been doing this for, you know, since 2006, and they haven't had much success.

MARTIN: Colum Lynch, senior diplomatic correspondent for Foreign Policy, he joined us via Skype. Thanks so much.

LYNCH: Thanks for having me. Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.