U.N. Security Council Passes New Sanctions On North Korea

Aug 7, 2017
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The Trump administration calls it the toughest sanctions on any country in a generation.

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NIKKI HALEY: North Korea's irresponsible and careless acts have just proved to be quite costly to the regime.

CORNISH: That's U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously this weekend to pass new sanctions on North Korea as punishment for its nuclear and missile programs. Haley estimates that the country will lose about a third of its revenue from exports if the U.N. resolution is implemented. As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, the U.S. has struggled to get other countries to follow through on sanctions.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: There have been U.N. sanctions on North Korea for more than a decade. And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he's watching countries closely to see if they enforce this latest and toughest round, though he's not sure when they might bite.

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REX TILLERSON: The more important element of that is just the message that this sends to North Korea of how unacceptable the entire international community finds what they're doing to be.

KELEMEN: North Korea calls the sanctions a violent infringement on its sovereignty and is vowing revenge. It has learned over the years how to get around such restrictions, according to Kent Boydston of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

KENT BOYDSTON: One of the ways they do that is they constantly change the names of their entities. And they are constantly looking for new markets.

KELEMEN: Its biggest market by far is China. And, earlier this year, China announced that it would stop importing North Korean coal. The new U.N. resolution makes that official, banning coal and other key exports from North Korea. It also calls on countries to stop importing workers from North Korea. But the wording in the resolution leaves room for abuse, says Richard Nephew, a senior research scholar at Columbia University.

RICHARD NEPHEW: While it imposes a cap on North Korean labor - that's good - it doesn't actually do anything to roll back the use of North Korean labor. It doesn't even set a requirement for baseline information to be provided to the U.N. so it can monitor implementation.

KELEMEN: Nephew says enforcing sanctions is only part of the problem. He says North Korea has made a lot of advances in its nuclear and missile programs. And he's not sure these latest sanctions will be enough to pressure Pyongyang to change course.

NEPHEW: I'm pretty skeptical that this is going to be the crowning moment. Really, I think it requires more strategy on the part of the Trump administration to decide what they're prepared to accept in North Korea, what kinds of negotiation these sanctions are intended to facilitate and so forth.

KELEMEN: North Korea's foreign minister says under no circumstances will his country put its nuclear and missile programs on the negotiating table. Secretary of State Tillerson says he's willing to talk but only under certain conditions.

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TILLERSON: The best signal that North Korea could give us that they're prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches.

KELEMEN: For now, though, both sides are trading angry words, and North Korea is threatening to make the U.S. pay for what it calls a heinous plot to isolate and stifle the country. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.