In response to a July long-range missile test, the United Nations Security Council yesterday voted unanimously for sanctions banning the international sale of North Korean coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore, and seafood.
The sanctions are expected to cut North Korea’s export revenue by $1 billion, or about one third.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley described them as “the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation.” Haley also admitted, though, that “we should not fool ourselves into thinking we have solved the problem. Not even close.”
The sanctions also included travel bans and asset freezes on several North Korean individuals, asset freezes on some entities, and a ban on new joint ventures between North Korea and other countries, or the expansion of existing partnerships. Currently, many of those partnerships are with China, whose officials have recently pressed North Korea to halt its missile-testing program.
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The sanctions ramp up years worth of similar measures—none of which stopped North Korea from developing nuclear weapons or, more recently, from building missiles that could theoretically reach the United States. The belligerent Hermit Kingdom—there’s an oxymoron—has worked around previous sanctions using front companies and smugglers. Now there are signs that the country is using hackers to generate revenue, including through the (mostly botched) WannaCry attacks this spring. More effective hacks could give North Korea a new means to fund missile and warhead development.
Arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis argues that it’s far too late for sanctions to have any real impact on nuclear missile development. The only good option remaining for world leaders, according to Lewis, may be to swallow their pride and normalize diplomatic relations with a hated dictatorship.