U.N. Sanctions on North Korea Largely Meaningless

Less than 24 hours after major trade sanctions were imposed on North Korea by the United Nations, it appears large holes are forming.

Questions over the effectiveness of the Security Council’s punitive sanctions on North Korea for its claimed nuclear test grew Sunday, as both South Korea and China — the North’s two most important trading partners — indicated that business and economic relations would be largely unaffected.

A day after the Council unanimously passed the resolution, following nearly a week of intensive diplomatic negotiations, the South Korean government said it would still pursue economic projects with North Korea, including an industrial zone and tourist resort in the North. Those projects are not explicitly covered by the Security Council resolution, but they are an important source of hard currency for the North.

China, which shares a 870-mile porous border with North Korea and is perhaps its most critical economic gateway to the outside world, said Saturday that it had no intention of stopping and inspecting cross-border shipments, as called for, but not specifically required, in the resolution. The Chinese government said nothing on Sunday about how it intended to carry out the sanctions, and American officials said they would be focused on whether the normal trade flow across the border was slowed.

The relative silence on Sunday about how the resolution would be enforced, coupled with the vagaries of the resolution itself, raised concerns that the Security Council action would not have much of an impact for the foreseeable future.

I’m shocked. Shocked!

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.