By Global Radar
The latest episode in the ongoing saga between the United States and North Korea saw the East Asian country recently become designated as a state sponsor of terrorism once again, following the country’s removal from the list by President George W. Bush nearly a decade ago. With this designation also came the announcement of new sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department against North Korea, a common trend seen on seemingly a monthly basis over the course of the past year. As the Trump train continues to steam ahead with its no-holds barred approach to relations with North Korea, it seems that a significant portion of the international community has grown tired of keeping up with the continuously updating list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for their cross-border diplomacy with the embattled country. While it is no secret that U.S. President Donald Trump has aimed to isolate North Korea from the global trading system in an attempt to force the country to drop its potentially catastrophic nuclear weapons initiatives, the measures imposed during his term as Commander in Chief have been unsuccessful to date from multiple standpoints. A report published by CNN on December 6th, 2017 highlights a dilemma facing both the United States and United Nations (UN) as new sanctions continue to be imposed against North Korea: the follow-through rate by which U.S. allies maintain accordance with these restrictions continues its decline.
According to the Institute for Science and International Security, a renowned source of public knowledge on international legislation and regulations, a total of “49 countries violated United Nations sanctions on North Korea to varying degrees between March 2014 and September 2017” (Iyengar, 2017). While this figure is shocking in and of itself, perhaps more startling is the fact that several of the world’s most prominent and/or wealthy countries – including Brazil, China, France, and Germany – were found to be part of this group, perhaps setting the tone for the comparable offenses seen in smaller countries across the globe. It has also been discovered that of the 49, 13 have reported connections to North Korea’s military – either through training or through the receipt or export of military equipment – including infamous, corrupt names such as Cuba, Iran, and Syria. It is the belief of officials from the UN that North Korea has targeted and ultimately exploited “countries with weak or nonexistent export and proliferation financing controls”, as well as those with high levels of corruption (Iyengar, 2017). The exploits of the countries found on the list include, but are not limited to, processing banned financial transactions on behalf of North Korea, the facilitation of front companies for the country’s government, aiding in the successful delivery of shipments to and from the country, occasionally through deceitful means such as changing the national registration of freight carriers to disguise their origin, and in the imports of sanctioned goods and valuable assets altogether.
While international pressure applied to individual country’s via sanctions has been a successful venture for government’s dealing with situation’s of this variety in the past, experts have differing viewpoints on whether or not the efforts being made by the U.S. and U.N., respectively, can rein in North Korea’s nuclear program. Getting sanctions passed against Pyongyang, the capital of Korea, is already a rather difficult process due to the opposing attitudes of countries such as China and Russia who have previously vetoed Security Council sanctions in order to prevent North Korea from becoming overly unstable or collapsing. Additionally, due to the widespread restrictions that are currently in place, there is virtually nothing more that can be cut off that will have any sort of significant impact on the country’s economy, military, or its inhabitants. The U.S.’s main hope had been that the international community would rally around them, heeding to the sanctions already in place and cutting ties with North Korea in order to further constrict the country of valuable resources. India and Singapore are two countries that have recently conceded in the manner that the American government had proposed, with both vowing to end their dealings with North Korea and ban all trade for the foreseeable future. Outside of these infrequent cases however the U.S. government’s ideal scenario has not unfolded. This leaves the United States back at square one, with their most effective option being one that is likely to be accompanied by severe ramifications. As suggested in the report, this option is to “press every country engaged in military or sanctioned trade with North Korea to stop any such activities, and deploy their own sanctions against those that fail to do so” – a move that even an individual as bold as President Trump has yet to pull the trigger on (Iyengar, 2017). What awaits both the U.S. and North Korea in the final chapter of 2017 however remains to be seen.