Hours after North Korea threatened to launch several preemptive nuclear strikes against the United States and South Korea, the United Nations Security Council approved its fourth set of sanctions, Resolution 2094, against Kim Jong-un’s regime. The resolution, which received a unanimous 15-0 vote of approval by members of the council, is currently the most severe course of action taken by the UN in response to the North’s defiance against the international community.
The new measures include stricter surveillance of North Korean financial transactions and cargo suspected of containing nuclear and missile-related contraband. The resolution will also ban the export of luxury goods into North Korea in order to send a clear message to its “ruling elite who have been living large while impoverishing their people,” United States Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said.
Ms. Rice further added, “The strength, breadth and severity of these sanctions will raise the cost to North Korea of its illicit nuclear program and further constrain its ability to finance and source materials and technology for its ballistic missile, conventional and nuclear weapons programs.”
Resolution 2094 is distinct from the previous three North Korean sanctions in that one of its primary authors is China, North Korea’s only major ally and largest trade partner. China’s direct role in the resolution provides evidence of Beijing’s diminishing trust in Kim’s regime. Despite having warned Kim against provoking the international community with its nuclear weapons program, Pyongyang ignored the cautioning by conducting its third underground nuclear test on February 12.
Li Baodong, China’s ambassador to the UN, told reporters after the vote that “the top priority now is to defuse the tension, bring down the heat and focus on the diplomatic track.”
Although most of the sanctions in Resolution 2094 directly aim towards diminishing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, its primary goal is to pressure Kim’s regime into resuming its diplomatic, six-party talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. The six-party talks were first established in 2003 and hoped to serve as a solution in promoting peaceful negotiations among the six nations. However, growing tensions among the states, including North Korea’s unwillingness to cooperate with the other nations, rendered the talks ineffective.
Based on Kim’s reaction to past sanctions imposed on North Korea, the likelihood of his regime cooperating peacefully is slim. Kim has managed to preserve North Korea’s reputation of violence and corruption thus far, however, the UN hopes that Resolution 2094 will coerce the young leader into negotiating with the international community on diplomatic terms rather than through the violent threats he has posited in the past.
When asked whether Resolution 2094 would break North Korea’s pattern of defiance, South Korea’s ambassador maintained that “North Korea’s future rests in its own hands.”