What can the North Korea sanctions achieve?

The new sanctions are intended to persuade North Korea to end its nuclear programme. They received an unanimous vote of approval in the UN Security Council last weekend. For many commentators, however, sanctions alone are not enough.

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Global Times (CN) /

US is ignoring the core issue

For the Global Times any sensible measure entails showing understanding for North Korea's security concerns:

“[T]he US only despises Pyongyang's mistake of developing nuclear weapons and missiles but does not care about what prompted Pyongyang to do so. ... It seems difficult to make the Americans realize that without addressing the security concerns of Pyongyang, imposing sanctions on it will never solve the nuclear issue. ... Washington should seriously consider the 'dual suspension' [North Korea stops its nuclear tests and the US and South Korea give up their joint military exercises] and 'dual track' [disarmament plus dialogue] approaches China has proposed.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Just paying lip service again?

The North Korean leadership won't sit down at the negotiating table until it starts feeling the painful effects of the new sanctions, the Financial Times believes:

“Much depends on how willing China, which as a neighbour and patron state has the greatest capacity to bring economic pressure to bear, and Russia are to enforce the resolution. Both countries paid little more than lip service to the past sanctions regime. Even some US allies were lackadaisical about enforcing it. ... In dealing with North Korea there are no good options. But sanctions, and the hope they will push Mr Kim back to talks, provide the best one left on offer.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

No sign of a long-term strategy

The sanctions won't be enough to make North Korea back down, Helsingin Sanomat fears:

“What further steps can be taken to deter North Korea from pursuing its destructive course remains unclear. … Although North Korea's nuclear weapons are a real problem for China and Russia, it would also be a problem for them if North Korea ended up in the Western sphere of influence. If North Korea were to reunite with South Korea this would create an enormous economic and human burden. … In the absence of a long-term strategy, then, North Korea is continuing with its threats.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Unanimous vote should not be overestimated

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung points out that China's North Korean policy recently received backing from Russia and that both countries issued a warning not only to North Korea but also America against provocative action:

“It almost looks as if these two might have overcome their differences. But this does not mean that we should overestimate the Russian and Chinese vote in favour of the American initiative to impose tougher sanctions. If these were to be consistently implemented there would be undesirable consequences for both countries. We are not even talking about a regime collapse here: even just more refugees fleeing starvation would be a burden on neighbour state China. But the vote of approval in New York protects China and Moscow from being accused of just watching Kim without taking action.”

Adevărul (RO) /

China and Russia save their skins

The leadership in Pyongyang is increasingly isolated, Adevârul observes:

“Its traditional allies, Russia and China, have now quickly backpedalled. … They have realised how serious the situation is and have no desire to let themselves be dragged into a major conflict situation on the Korean peninsula. Russia has its own - very complex - problems with the sanctions imposed on Moscow by the Europeans and Americans while China is working on its large-scale project, the new Silk Road. … China can't compromise this project for the sake of a paranoid and suicidal dictator.”

Sme (SK) /

Security Council wants to appease the hardliners

The unity of the UN Security Council is down to fear of a military strike by the US, Sme concludes:

“The economic sanctions won't deter the regime in North Korea from implementing its nuclear programme. But the unanimous vote of the Security Council including China and Russia shows that the major powers have understood that Donald Trump is very close to launching a preventive strike against North Korea. Closer than ever before. Such an attack would threaten the lives of millions. … The cautious Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has no influence in government. … Defense Secretary Mattis and Security advisor McMaster wield the real power. And they both see an attack on North Korea as a 'real possibility'.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

In the end the UN will back down

The sanctions will not make the North Korean regime back down, Frankfurter Rundschau believes:

“Every time the UN applies punitive measures Pyongyang ignores it. The regime knows only too well that at the end of the round of sanctions the international community will back down. Because the ensuing loss of income causes food shortages in North Korea. Then they have to send aid for humanitarian reasons. So it looks very much as if the only possible way out of this spiralling brinkmanship is if the key parties negotiate with one another. But it will be a while before that happens”

To Vima (GR) /

Cold War posturing

To Vima sees global peace in jeopardy:

“ Only last week North Korean intercontinental missiles threatened the west coast of the US, and in reaction American bombers flew over North Korea. At the same time the Russian navy and the Chinese army flexed their military muscles with impressive parades. Then came the US Congress's decision to impose new sanctions against Russia, which had already planned a series of major military exercises in Belarus, provoking a shocked reaction from the Baltic states and Nato. So this summer we are suddenly seeing a dangerous return of the Cold War climate that was supposed to have been buried after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is particularly dangerous at a time when the abominable Trump is the leader of the Western world.”