The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) vowed on Sept 13 to accelerate its weapons program in a tit-for-tat reaction to the “evil” sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council. On Sept 11, the Security Council had imposed fresh sanctions in response to the DPRK’s sixth and strongest nuclear test on Sept 3.
The DPRK’s response is a step in the wrong direction and will further isolate it from the international community.
The Security Council’s sanctions against the DPRK include a ban on the country’s textile exports and restrictions on imports of crude oil.
The Security Council’s ninth package of measures against the DPRK since 2006 came amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula and high vigilance by all parties concerned.
Reports say the United States, whose Pacific territory of Guam is under the perceived threat of Pyongyang’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), “considerably” watered down its draft sanctions resolution — that initially demanded a complete oil embargo and a partial naval blockade — to win the support of China and Russia.
The motives of Washington, however, go beyond “avoiding a Chinese or Russian abstention” from a UN resolution.
The US oil-embargo proposal is an attempt to make the Washington-Pyongyang dispute, a focal point of the DPRK nuclear program, Beijing’s exclusive problem, as China is the DPRK’s biggest oil supplier.
Even if China does not veto such a full ban, Russia, another major oil supplier to the DPRK and also a permanent member of the UN Security Council, is not likely to support such a move.
The ban on the DPRK’s textile exports, reportedly the second-most important source of income for the country, might make a difference.
The latest sanctions ban the export of oil condensates to the country and cap refined petroleum exports at 2 million barrels a year, cutting by half the existing export levels.
Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions pose a serious security threat to the international community, including China. Its insistence on continuing with the nuclear program and developing ICBMs scales down the room for strategic maneuvering and consumes China’s diplomatic resources too.
China always fulfilled its responsibility by making the best efforts to ease tensions on the peninsula. On the occasions that China has agreed to sanctions against the DPRK, it has done so to help Pyongyang return to the right track and has always taken into account the livelihoods of the ordinary people in that country.
Pyongyang may not be a stranger to economic sanctions, but this time it faces a moment of truth. Not only do the fresh sanctions touch upon its oil imports and textile exports, these could also entail increasing diplomatic pressures.
Mexico and Peru, for instance, have expelled the DPRK’s ambassadors to the two countries over its nuclear test.
More importantly, neither the DPRK’s bet on its nuclear prowess nor the controversial anti-missile battery of the US and the Republic of Korea (ROK) will be good options to achieve “absolute security” on the peninsula.
It is high time the related parties heed China’s suggestions on “dual suspension” — Pyongyang suspends its nuclear and missile tests in exchange for the US and the ROK suspending their joint military drills — and resume talks as soon as possible.
The author is the deputy dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, Jilin University. The article is an excerpt from his interview with China Daily’s Cui Shoufeng.