U.N. Adopts Harsh Sanctions on North Korea

Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., where the Security Council adopted sweeping new sanctions on North Korea. (PHOTO CREDIT: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., where the Security Council adopted sweeping new sanctions on North Korea. (PHOTO CREDIT: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The United Nations Security Council adopted harsh sanctions on North Korea Wednesday, imposing some of the strongest measures ever used to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

The new sanctions come two months after North Korea conducted a test of what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb and a month after it conducted what was widely described as a banned missile test under the guise of launching a satellite into space. But U.S. officials began drafting the measures three years ago, soon after North Korea conducted a previous nuclear test, in order to move swiftly the next time it happened.

The resolution is far more sweeping than existing sanctions requiring a link to proliferation activities. That precondition has been removed, in effect erasing the presumption of innocence.

It mandates cargo inspections for all goods going in and out of North Korea by sea or by air, chokes off supplies of most aviation fuel for its armed forces and bans the sale of all small arms and conventional weapons to Pyongyang. It also prohibits transactions that raise hard cash for North Korea through sales of its natural resources such as gold, iron ore and titanium.

The resolution doubles the blacklist of people and institutions already sanctioned and requires countries to expel North Korean diplomats involved in any sanctioned activities.

One small provision was designed to prevent Pyongyang from sending taekwondo instructors to train foreign police forces.

President Obama welcomed the sanctions as a firm and appropriate resoponse to North Korea’s attempts to advance its program of weapons of mass destruction.

“Today, the international community, speaking with one voice, has sent Pyongyang a simple message: North Korea must abandon these dangerous programs and choose a better path for its people,” he said.

The sanctions, which target the country’s elites and avoid “adverse humanitarian consequences” for civilians, aim to accomplish what worked with less onerous sanctions on Iran by pushing the impoverished nation to quit pumping money into its nuclear program.

“Irrespective of whether they change their calculus tomorrow, it’s going to be a lot harder for them to access the technology, the know-how and the money they’ve used to fuel their nuclear program,” Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a telephone interview. “This is really going to dramatically increase the isolation of the regime, and increase the cost of maintaining this program.”

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Carol Morello and Steven Mufson