Last week, Trump signed into law a sweeping set of sanctions on North Korea passed by the US Congress. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council that the stiffer measures brought the penalty imposed on North Korea “to a whole new level” and put leader Kim Jong-Un “on notice”.
We called up NPR’s Elise Hu in Seoul, South Korea, and asked her how the new sanctions came about.
In the most recent court filing, unsealed last month, USA government attorneys were granted a seizure warrant against the largest Chinese importer of North Korean coal and four related front companies after presenting evidence that the Chinese company’s transactions with North Korea were “ultimately benefiting sanctioned North Korean end users, including North Korea military and North Korea weapons programs”. It claimed that the whole USA mainland is within its striking range.
John Delury, a China and North Korea expert at Yonsei University in Seoul, noted that the Chinese population that lives along the 800-mile (1,300-km) border with North Korea is already struggling financially.
Even as they celebrate a diplomatic victory in persuading China and Russian Federation to sign on to cutting new sanctions, the US and other countries are deeply concerned that failure to rigorously enforce them could significantly blunt their impact.
Speaking to reporters at a security forum in the Philippine capital, Mr Tillerson said Washington would only consider talks if Pyongyang halted its ballistic missile programme – something the North has insisted it has no intention of doing.
China’s decision to back the United States in the United Nations Security Council, delivering a new round of sanctions that will cut $US1 billion ($2.5 billion) in exports from North Korea, has avoided the untimely prospect of a damaging trade battle with the US.
A United Nations report earlier this year warned that the enforcement of existing sanctions on North Korea by countries around the world “remains insufficient and highly inconsistent”.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has no plans to hold talks with Ri in the Philippines, his aides have said, but could meet him inside one of the meetings. A page-one editorial (link in Chinese) in the overseas edition of the state-run People’s Daily argues the USA and South Korea should suspend military exercises in the area.
Pyongyang threatened to make the United States – which drafted the latest sanctions package – “pay the price for its crime. thousands of times”. China has said it is committed to fully enforcing sanctions, but that sanctions are not a lasting solution. Apart from coal, iron ore, and nonferrous metals, a large part of the sanctions concerned seafood exports, which were included in a resolution for the first time.
However, any breathing room China has gained isn’t likely to last long, according to Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing.
Chinese President Xi Jinping needs stability and to project the image of a powerful leader at the congress.