Will Economic Sanctions Be Enough to Stop North Korea?

In his inaugural address to the United Nations, U.S. President Donald J. Trump said that if the United States is forced to defend its allies, it would have no choice but “to destroy North Korea”.

The statement drew mixed reactions from the congregation of nations with many sharing the opinion that by openly advocating a military solution instead of a diplomatic one, Trump had proven North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un right about the United States.

In North Korea, most children have never seen an American in person. But the government has taught them to hate the United States by having the schools schedule regular field trips at Pyongyang.

There at the strangely named Sinchon Museum of American Atrocities, Americans are presented as the enemy who took pride in torturing Koreans during the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Days after his United Nations address, President Trump took the next step forward by signing an executive order meant to target individuals and organizations that do business with North Korea.

Since 2006, the United Nations has imposed economic sanctions on North Korea for its insistence on testing ballistic missiles. The sanctions include restriction of sales to the regime involving missile related items, technologies and military hardware such as helicopters, aircraft and tanks.

After reportedly testing its first hydrogen bomb and firing an intercontinental ballistic missile near Japan, the UN again imposed new economic sanctions on North Korea. This time the UN banned the sale of textiles and cut off oil imports to the regime.

Overall, the UN has handed down total of 10 economic sanctions on North Korea from 2006 to 2017. Within that time period, North Korea has tested five nuclear bombs.

President Trump directed his executive order to entities that may continue to transact with North Korea including its allies and foreign banks. In a move that was seen as a possible game changer, officials in China stated that they have instructed their banks to honour the economic sanctions and refrain from dealing with North Korean organizations.

China has been identified as the main supplier of oil and other fuel products to North Korea which has been its long-time ally.

President Trump has asked the US Treasury Department to identify the personalities who continue to trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea:

The President’s statement continued:

“The order also includes measures designed to disrupt critical North Korean shipping and trade networks. This is a complete denuclearization of North Korea that we seek. We cannot have this as a world body any longer.”

Former US Ambassador to the UN and noted foreign policy expert John Bolton remains unconvinced economic sanctions will make a difference in the standoff versus North Korea.

For Mr. Bolton, if sanctions have not worked the last 25 years, what makes the UN or the US certain that these would find success in year #26?

However, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reported that North Korea has been affected by fuel shortages since the sanctions were imposed in September. It may take some time for the sanctions to take effect as the Communist regime apparently stockpiled on fuel in anticipation of the incoming U.S. administration’s actions.

The next few months will tell if Kim Jong Un will give in to international pressure and the latest round of economic sanctions. One thing is for sure; Japan and South Korea will support the United States should President Trump decide to initiate military action.