How to Pressure North Korea

FDD’s Anthony Ruggiero on UNSCR 2371

This past Saturday, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously in favor of Resolution 2371, which strengthens UN sanctions on North Korea. The United States Mission to the United Nations produced a fact sheet explaining this resolution:

“Resolution 2371 (2017) includes the strongest sanctions ever imposed in response to a ballistic missile test. These measures target North Korea’s principal exports” in hopes of eliminating $1 billion per year that has been redirected to its illicit programs. Additionally, it targets the “arms smuggling, joint ventures with foreign companies, banks, and other sources of revenue.”

Anthony Ruggiero, FDD senior fellow and former official with the Departments of the Treasury and State, explained to CBS News that these sanctions primarily target North Korea’s export revenue, which would be cut by $1 billion annually if all the UN member states comply. The prohibited exports included coal, iron, iron ore, lead ore and seafood, but not oil, which Ruggiero told The New York Times “appeared to be a step too far for China.”

Ruggiero summarized the resolution’s goals as “to decrease the amount of revenue that North Korea has for its military, for its nuclear missile programs, and for luxury goods that they send to their elites.” As Ruggiero told Fox News, “North Korea has a PhD in fleecing the United States and its allies for inducements to give up its weapons programs, knowing that they’re not going to do that.” After this resolution, with the international community united against North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and if combined with a robust U.S. sanctions campaign, Ruggiero predicted, “They’re going to have to start making choices that they haven’t had to choose before.”

While all heads swivel toward the UN and North Korea, Ruggiero insisted that the U.S. cannot let up on Russia or China because “while the restrictions seem tough on the surface, they rely on the Chinese and Russians to enforce them.’’ He emphasized China’s role in the success or failure of this resolution to CBS News, and in doing so, he raised the key question facing policy makers: “Will this resolution represent a turning of the tide…a robust sanctions campaign like we did against Iran” or will Beijing view this as an opportunity “to delay U.S. sanctions as far as they can and allow North Korea to continue these programs?”

The U.S. government had been moving toward sanctions on individuals and companies in China, and Ruggiero voiced concern to CNN which he restated to The New York Times that after this resolution, U.S. officials “will now argue China and Russia need time to implement the resolution.” However, 11 years of evidence have shown that China does not comply with UN sanctions, and as he told NPR and CNN, Chinese officials have either been complicit in sanctions evasion or refused to ask the correct questions.

To sanction North Korea successfully, Ruggiero urged Trump to “issue new sanctions against China at the same time as the new resolution.” He pointed out to CBS News this past week that Trump signed a new sanctions law that can be used as “a tool to compliment these UN sanctions.” As he explained to NPR, North Korea has used Chinese shell companies frequently. Although the companies themselves are not illegal, “it’s the activity that they’re undertaking that could be against sanctions or against national laws or international laws.”

Ruggiero noted “It’s really good that we have a resolution, but the next step is making sure that…all of the loopholes…get fixed one by one.” China will comply when the spotlight is bright, but will resume normal trade levels when the attention fades, like it has in the past.

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