China, Russia Will Come to Regret Voting in North Korea Sanctions

Encouraging American bellicosity is a poor way of seeking stability on the Korean peninsula

China and Russia maintain that North Korea and the US are both equally at fault for rising tensions on the Korean peninsula. Yet the pair has now voted in UN sanctions against North Korea, albeit no such sanctions are forthcoming agaisnt the US. How is that fair?

Moreover, it would be one thing for Moscow and Beijing to decree that its own citizens are henceforth banned from trading with North Korea, instead the sanctions are global. Should Burkina Faso wish to import seafood from Pyongyang this is now “illegal” — because great powers have said so.

The sanctions also prohibit any country importing North Korean coal, iron, iron ore, lead and lead ore, and bans any joint ventures with the North Koreans. (In other words the sanctions are really measure against all the other states.) It is estimated that as a consequence North Korea will lose a third of its annual $3 billion income from exports.

What is more there is no expiration date on the measures meaning they can only be revoked with another UN Security Council resolution. In other words, China, which is North Korea’s largest trading partner by far, has just handed Washington the ability to prevent China restoring its trade relations with a neighboring country at will.

There is no such thing as an international treaty ban on testing long-range rockets (ICMBs or otherwise), and North Korea has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so it is not bound by that either.

To justify the sanctions the UN Security Council powers say North Korea has failed to follow — other UN Security Council resolutions. In other words, sanctions against it are “legal” because the country has defied the previous directives of the great powers. It’s might makes right at its best.

It’s understandable that China seeks to reign in North Korea. Pyongyang’s peculiar, boastful and hyper-active, style of deterrence has provided the US with an convenient excuse to bring the THAAD anti-missile system right to China’s backyard. But it is doubtful the sanctions will do much to give pause to North Korea, while they will certainly show the US that bellicosity pays off.

China insisted the resolution also calls for the restoration of the six-party talks (dead since 2007), but any such eventuality is highly unlikely as Americans insist they can only talk about de-nuclarization.

Actually the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, is already boasting that the sanctions represent a “gut punch” to North Korea, and she “twisted arms” of the Chinese and Russians to deliver it. It hardly seems encouraging the US by going along its anti-North moves is any way of going about seeking stability for the Korean peninsula.

Additionally, the UNSC great powers claim they took great concern that ordinary North Koreans will not be affected. That is nonsense. There is no way that a loss of one third of its export dollars won’t trickle down. One billion dollars worth of North Korean exports less means one billion less in imports.

That means less energy and food imports. And less purchasing power by workers and officials in the export industries to drive the illegal smuggling of consumer goods and entertainment from abroad. In other words, the sanctions are not only the assault on the living conditions of one of the most deprived populations in the world, but undermine what could be a key agent for change and freedom.