DEBATE: Are sanctions for countries illegally trading with North Korea a constructive way to halt its nuclear ambitions?
YES – Jieun Baek, author of North Korea’s Hidden Revolution: How the Informational Underground is Transforming a Closed Society.
Sanctioning entities that conduct business with North Korea could disable the financial engine which empowers the regime to prop up its nuclear programme, posing one of the most significant international security threats of today. The dangerous and incorrect narrative that North Korea is the most sanctioned country on earth shrinks the political space to implement more sanctions, permitting its leaders to continue operating their global financial networks to inject hard currency into their regime. Secondary sanctions are a strong non-military policy option that – if effectively implemented – could slow down the lifeblood to a regime that is a gross human rights violator of its citizens, and is the world’s biggest nuclear threat. There may be diplomatic and marginal financial blowbacks, but small consequences are acceptable costs to the enormous gains that can be made if secondary sanctions sufficiently pressure the North Korean regime to halt its nuclear ambitions..
NO – Ramon Pacheco Pardo, senior lecturer in international relations at King’s College London.
Imposing sanctions on countries doing illegal business with North Korea is not going to affect its behaviour. To begin with, a large part of the country’s trade and investment flows go unreported. The absence of effective monitoring mechanisms would make it impossible to stop these activities. In addition, and contrary to popular belief, North Korea has economic links with a wide range of countries – including the UK. Sanctions on those doing illegal business with North Korea will not hurt the Pyongyang elite that run the country. North Korea is not going to stop its nuclear weapons programme as a result of yet more sanctions, whether on Pyongyang itself or one of its trading partners. In the past, North Korea has only been willing to interrupt its programme in exchange for meaningful conversations involving the US. This – not sanctions – is the most constructive way to address North Korea’s nuclear efforts if the goal is to slow down and even reverse them.