By Snigdha Kalra
On Friday, the 22nd of December, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) imposed new sanctions against North Korea, putting severe limits on its supplies of refined petroleum and crude oil. This comes in response to the latest test of a rocket missile by the country, conducted in late November, which, it claims, can reach anywhere on the US mainland.
The sanctions were imposed by a unanimous vote of all members of the Security Council, and involved a ban on about 90 percent of the refined petroleum exports to North Korea, a cap on crude oil supplies to the country at 4 million barrels per year, and a repatriation of North Korean workers abroad within 24 months.
The nuclearisation of North Korea
North Korea has conducted 16 missile tests since February 2017, launching 23 missiles in total. July 4th marked the launch of the first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Hwasong-14, which, it claimed, could reach anywhere in the world. The latest missile test, conducted on 29th November, however, comes after a break of two months. The ICBM, called Hwasong-15, has been the most successful, having flown to an altitude of 4,500 kilometres, and landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The subsequent declaration of North Korea as a complete nuclear state, along with its claims as to the range of the missile, has strengthened its position and has put pressure on the United States.
Sanctions and their impact
The United Nations has been dealing with the menace of North Korean missile tests through the diplomatic instrument of sanctions. Along with the limits on petroleum and crude oil, it has also banned the exports of food products, machinery, electrical equipment and other products from North Korea, to cut off funding from outside the country. Moreover, exports of machinery, industrial equipment and transport vehicles to the country have been banned, along with a global asset freeze and travel ban of the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces, the administrative and logistical arm of the Korean People’s Army (KPA).
However, economic sanctions have never been a major deterrent to North Korea’s nuclear mission. According to Kim Sung-Han, former vice foreign minister of South Korea, the numerous sanctions imposed over the past 25 years have not been effective in halting the country’s military or nuclear ambitions.
North Korea’s response
On Sunday, North Korea, in its statement, lashed out against the sanctions, calling them “an act of war”. It said, “We define this ‘sanctions resolution’ rigged up by the U.S. and its followers as a grave infringement upon the sovereignty of our Republic, as an act of war violating peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the region and categorically reject the ‘resolution.’”
North Korea’s foreign ministry has also called the sanctions a complete economic blockade against the country and threatened to punish those who supported the measure. “If the US wishes to live safely, it must abandon its hostile policy towards the DPRK and learn to co-exist with the country that has nuclear weapons and should wake up from its pipe dream of our country giving up nuclear weapons which we have developed and completed through all kinds of hardships,” said the statement.
Clearly, North Korea seems unaffected by the latest round of sanctions as well. Meanwhile, its successive rounds of missile testing mount pressure on the US, as well as South Korea. In such a situation, the US may even resort to military measures to prevent any irreversible harm. Whether North Korea will also react with an even stronger nuclear programme, remains uncertain.
Featured Image Source: Pixabay
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