March 18, 2016 12:11
U.S. President Barack Obama in an executive order Wednesday implemented unilateral sanctions that leave room for action against private individuals and organizations in third countries doing business with the North. The question is whether the measures will be effective in persuading the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
Traditionally the North has responded to UN sanctions by conducting more nuclear tests or missile launches, and it is already threatening another nuclear test or missile launch after claiming that it has succeeded in a test simulating the intense heat a nuclear warhead would experience during atmospheric re-entry. Pyongyang is convinced that its nuclear weapons program is not only a terrific bargaining chip to get concessions from the U.S. but a means of survival. Its latest threats cannot simply be written off as hot air.
If North Korea has decided to walk down the path of nuclear armament, more nuclear and long-range missile tests are inevitable. Seoul must accept this reality and make the necessary preparations. More powerful sanctions against the North must be agreed by the international community. Strategic dialogue with the U.S. and China can achieve the necessary consensus against North Korea's threats.
If the North does push ahead with another nuclear test, all loopholes in the current sanctions must be plugged, above all the supply of oil. The U.S. has sanctioned North Korean individuals and organizations in banking, shipping and procurement of materials for missiles and nuclear arms. But sanctions on people or firms in third countries remain only a possibility, and North Korea can still dispatch workers abroad to earn the regime some US$300 million annually. Sanctions also need to be imposed on the North's exports of textiles and other manufactured goods. The next provocation is imminent. It must not succeed.
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