It has been reported that the US has proposed a new draft UNSC resolution for further sanctions on North Korea to China. North Korea recently conducted a test launch of an ICBM referred to as a ‘Hwasong-14,’ on July 4, but the international community has yet to present a resolution on the matter due to tension between the US and China.
According to foreign press outlets on July 10, the US submitted a new UNSC resolution draft on July 7, calling for the suspension of crude oil to North Korea and a ban on the dispatch of North Korean workers to foreign countries in response to the country’s test launch of an ICBM.
China has not yet responded to the draft, but as the Chinese government emphasized solution through ‘dialogue’ at the UNSC emergency meeting held immediately after the test launch, it seems likely that the US and China will have difficulty in reaching an agreement on additional sanctions against the North. Russia has also expressed its opposition to additional sanctions on North Korea, making it even more difficult for the UNSC to agree on ‘punitive measures’ against the belligerent state.
The gap in opinion between the major powers concerning North Korea’s launch was also prominent during the G20 summit. US President Donald Trump emphasized China’s role in resolving North Korea issues at a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, noting, “China should act on North Korea issues.” But President Xi maintained China’s original position, responding that the issue must be approached with dialogue and negotiation.
President Xi reaffirmed that the ‘blood brotherhood’ between China and North Korea remains strong during talks with South Korean President Moon Jae In ahead of the summit with President Trump. The fact that China emphasized its alliance with North Korea just two days after North Korea’s launch of a missile can be interpreted as an intention to reject further sanctions that could destabilize the North Korean regime.
Professor Park Jong Cheol of Gyeongsang National University told Daily NK that, “China agreed to every UNSC resolution adopted after North Korea’s fourth and fifth nuclear tests. It seems that those resolutions were China’s Maginot Line in terms of participation. China has been taking measures to revitalize North Korea’s economy through humanitarian and civilian exchanges despite suspending coal imports. So it seems that further restrictions on civilian exchanges and trade is unlikely.”
As a result, there are concerns that it will take considerable time to reach agreement on further UNSC sanctions. In view of past experience, it has taken successively more and more time to garner the support of China and Russia in strengthening sanctions against the North.
It took five days to adopt UNSC Resolution 1718 following the first nuclear test in 2006, 18 days to adopt UNSC Resolution 1874 in response to the second nuclear test in 2009, and 23 days to adopt UNSC Resolution 2094 after the country’s third nuclear test in 2013. It took 56 days to adopt UNSC Resolution 2270, regarded as the strongest non-military sanctions in the history of the UN, in response to the fourth nuclear test. Finally, it took 82 days to adopt UNSC Resolution 2321, which was to address loopholes in Resolution 2270, after the fifth nuclear test.
However, if the UNSC does not respond to the missile launch for an extended period of time, it may provide encouragement to the North Korean regime. The North is already accelerating its development of nuclear weapons despite universal opposition from the international community, and disagreements among UNSC member countries gives North Korea more time to further develop its nuclear capabilities.
As North Korea declared that it would not participate in talks on denuclearization, it has become even more difficult to determine whether it will conduct another nuclear test. Analysts assume that as North Korea has been testing missile launches disguised as satellite launches, it is likely that another nuclear test will follow the ICBM launch.
It is also possible that the United States will introduce strengthened unilateral sanctions on North Korea as it becomes clear that China and Russia will veto further UNSC sanctions. The US could negotiate on the extent of sanctions to gain the support of China and Russia, but as UNSC sanctions to date have failed to prevent additional nuclear tests, the US is unlikely to settle for an ineffective resolution.
It is therefore presumed that the US will introduce secondary sanctions to boycott Chinese businesses and organizations trading with North Korea in response to China’s non-cooperation. Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations commented on July 9 during an interview with the US broadcasting company CBS that, “North Korea’s launch of an ICBM is completely another level of threat and an unprecedented danger, so the US will strengthen pressure on North Korea through cooperation with China.”
“We will adopt a strong UNSC resolution to impose additional sanctions on North Korea, and do not want compromised resolutions,” Haley emphasized, indicating that the US will not tolerate a lower level of sanctions due to opposition from China and Russia.
Haley also hinted on the possibility of economic pressure on China, saying, “We (the United States) will strongly pressure China to participate in sanctions. We have various options in addition to military ones. For example, bilateral trade with China can be part of our response.”